Elixir: A Human History of Water

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Bloomsbury Publishing, Jun 20, 2011 - Science - 416 pages
2 Reviews
Elixir: A Human History of Water spans five millennia, from the beginnings of civilisation to the global water shortages of today. Our present-day interaction with this most essential resource has deep roots in the remote past, and every human culture has been shaped by its relationship to water. From the earliest hunter-gatherers, for whom knowing where to find water was a matter of life and death, through the Greek and Romans, whose mighty aqueducts still provide water for modern cities, to China, where emperors marshalled armies of labourers to tame the country's powerful rivers, every human culture has been shaped by its relationship with water. Medieval Europe, and then the Industrial Revolution, brought ingenious new solutions to water management and turned water into a commodity to be bought, sold, and exploited, and we still live at the mercy of the natural world for our most essential resource.


Brian Fagan tells the story of 5,000 years of human endeavour. Deeply researched and elegantly written, Elixir illustrates that the past teaches us that technologies for solving one or another water problem are not enough. We still live at the mercy of the natural world and to solve the water crises of the future we may need to adapt the water ethos of our ancestors.

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User Review  - GlennBell - LibraryThing

Mediocre book. I enjoyed the later portion of the book with respect to the present and future of water. Much of the earlier history was covered in great detail to the point of being boring. I usually ... Read full review

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - mahallett - LibraryThing

a great book, looking at our use of water in many cultures and times. our course our time is hopeless and troublesome. a lot of cultures have moved on from a lack of water. Read full review

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About the author (2011)

Brian Fagan is Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is the author of the New York Times bestseller The Great Warming and many other books.

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