J. Mark D. Elvin, MA (Cantab et Oxon), PhD (Cambridge)
Emeritus Professor and Visiting Fellow, School of Culture, History & Language
The Retreat of the Elephants. An Environmental History of China was published by Yale in April 2004, and well reviewed in Science, Nature, etc. It is the first single-author overview of the subject from archaic times up to around 1900. My introduction to volume 7.2 of Needham's Science and Civilisation in China, "Vale Atque Ave", also came out in 2004, and is an attempt to evaluate Needham's overall position in the history of science. My long article, "Some Reflections on the Use of 'Styles of Scientific Thinking' to Disaggregate and Sharpen Comparisons Between China and Europe from Sòng to Mid-Qing Times (960-1850 CE)" appeared in History of Technology, 25, followed by a critical comment from Rob Iliffe. The first substantial analysis in any language of probabilistic thinking in premodern China appeared in 2002 in a Chinese version of my 2000 paper, for a conference on ideas about Nature in Europe and China organized by Professors Dux and Vogel, in Chinese Science and Scientific Revolutions edited by Liu Dun. Work on the interdisciplinary study of the history of the two lakes Erhai (subject of a major article in East Asian History of which I was the lead author) and Chaohu, in collaboration with John Dearing and members and former members of the Department of Geography of Liverpool University (UK) and the Institute of Limnology in Nanjing, continued but at a much slower pace than before. My Chiang Ching-Kuo project on the reconstruction of mortality and fertility patterns in selected localities in premodern China was expanded into an ARC project, and I have now solved the general problem of 'anchoring' solutions to mortality levels and patterns by means of three largely independent measures. With continuing data-collection being done by Dr. Josephine Fox, the spatial coverage of this project, which has mainly been on parts of the lower Yangzi Valley and parts of the Northeast, is set to become both more intensive and wider ranging. In my eighteen months teaching at the University of Heidelberg (2003-4) I developed the prototype of a syntactic notation for late-imperial narrative Chinese that enables one to discuss differing interpretations in a formally rigorous manner.
The current results of the demography project, together with the data, coding conventions, analyses, and computer programs are freely downloadable from the Academia website at http://gis.sinica.edu.tw/QingDemography.
Chinese history: environment, economy, demography, proto-science, geography, emotions.
- The Retreat of the Elephants. An Environmental History of China, Yale University Press,2004.
- The Pattern of the Chinese Past, Eyre Methuen, Stanford, 1973.
- (with C. Blunden) Cultural Atlas of China, Phaidon, Oxford, 1983, rev. ed. 1998.
- Another History, Wild Peony, Sydney, 1996.
- Changing Stories in the Chinese World, SUP, Stanford, 1997.
- (ed. with Liu Ts'ui-jung) Sediments of Time: Environment and Society in Chinese History, CUP, NY, 1998.
Harkness-Commonwealth Fellow, Harvard (1962-64); Research Fellow of Clare Hall, Cambridge (1966-67); Fellow of St Antony's College, Oxford (1973-89); Inaugural Holder of the Chaire Européenne at the École Normale Supérieure, Paris (1993); Professor of Chinese Studies (vice Professor Rudolf Wagner), Sinologisches Seminar, University of Heidelberg, Germany (2003-2004).