Summary: In this reading you are first introduced to the ideas of Hong Liangji and Thomas Malthus regarding the relationship between the growth of human populations and the ability of society to provide the basic needs, especially food, for its citizens. Understand what the author means by the Malthusian trap and the evidence for its consequences in this reading. The remainder of the reading deals with the disastrous history of the impact of the silver trade on the price of food staples, mainly rice, on the agriculture and ecology of China and its subsequent role in the deforestation and flooding of wide swaths of the country. Appreciate the interdependence of these factors and how the disruption of the traditional rice agricultural practices lead to the increased dependence on growing corn, sweet potatoes, and tobacco.
- Reading due 15 February
- First draft due 17 February
- Comments due 1 March
- Final draft due 3 March
Essay: Explain why the renewal of the silver trade with Spain was such a disaster for the rice based economy in China. What was the response of the population and the government to this problem? Discuss how the shift away from rice led to ever increasing environmental degradation of agricultural lands, increased flooding, and human misery. Briefly explain how the legacy of these practices continued up through the 1960s and 1970s in China. You should include specific examples including the regions and groups of people involved.