Whittier College News Release

For Immediate Release - April 2, 1998
Media Contact: Contact: Thea Makow (562) 907-4276
Reference: 97/98-89

China's Imperial Agroeconomic System Was Not Sustainable, Says Professor Robert B. Marks

Robert B. Marks, professor of history at Whittier College, has published Tigers, Rice, Silk, and Silt, a ground-breaking analysis of the environment and economy in late Imperial south China that challenges conventional wisdom on the subject.

The book examines how climate change, population, commercialization and state action interacted in south China during the period of 1400 to 1850 to create an agroeconomic system that was not sustainable. According to Marks, this system resulted in severe environmental degradation and loss of biodiversity--a finding that contradicts prominent historians who refer to China's mode of agriculture as a model of sustainable development.

The book was published by Cambridge University Press.

Marks, whose study was supported by two grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities, has published three other books on Asian and Chinese history.

Located 18 miles east of Los Angeles, Whittier College is an independent, four-year college offering traditional liberal arts majors and strong pre-professional programs taught in the context of the liberal arts. Whittier Law School, which is accredited by the American Bar Association and the Association of American Law Schools, is located on a separate campus in Costa Mesa.

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