Rivers are the great natural arteries that run through our lives. We have tapped them, navigated them, dammed them and worshipped at them. From the ancient ecosystems of Egypt to the sinking cities of Shanghai and London, what we do with our rivers tells us about who has power and what we value. Now, when environmental regulations are at their strongest and a passion for wild swimming is flourishing, when the Amazon is on fire and some of our major river systems are dying, it has never been clearer that rivers are intertwined with humanity at our best and our worst.
Liquid History is story of the Nile, Danube, Niger, Mississippi, Ganges, Yangtze and the Thames. It is a story of imperial frontiers, alluvial gold, kidnappings, slavery, de-colonialism, creation myths and the killing of rivers. It is about those who've lived and died on these rivers and their endless capacity for invention: their harnessing of oases and aquifers, their lotus pools and hanging gardens, their gigantic canal systems and elaborate fishing rituals, their absolute powers and their sly rebellions. At its heart are the empire-builders of the Chinese dynasties, Romans and Hindus and their river gods, the Habsburgs and Ottomans, Mughal emperors, the people of the Niger from Mali's golden age to today, struggles of life and death on the Mississippi, and the dethroning of the British on the rivers of their unruly imperial subjects.
This is the story of us, in seven rivers.