American Studies Program

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FEBRUARY 24-25, 2012

Luce Auditorium

Yale University

Co-Sponsored by the Yale Program in Economic History & Yale Environmental History


How do the characteristics and availability of natural resources shape political institutions? How have states mobilized resources to bolster their legitimacy and extend their influence? How have economic and environmental historians, political scientists, and others approached the concept of resources in the past and what are some directions for future work?

This two-day conference at Yale University will engage an interdisciplinary group of scholars to examine these questions and others at the intersection of environmental change, economics, and political development.

As scholarship has become more transnational, the management and movement of human and natural resources, and the circulation of commodities and ideas, have all emerged as exigent research questions. Such broad empirical and methodological investigations invite comparative approaches across social science and humanistic disciplines and geographic and temporal distinctions. This conference therefore engages the Ancient Mediterranean to imperial China and the modern United States to understand the economics and histories of such problems and to provide perspective on current conflicts over natural resources and their implications for state development and geopolitical struggles.




1:15 PM INTRODUCTION: Naomi Lamoreaux (Yale University)

1:30-2:45 PM PANEL 1: Resources and State-building I
Chair: Seven Agir (Yale University)

Joe Manning (Yale University)
“Water, Irrigation and their Connection to State Power in Egypt”

Bin Wong (UCLA)
“Historical and Comparative Perspectives on Resource Management in Chinese Empires”

Respondent: Daniel Headrick (Roosevelt University)

3:15-4:30 PM PANEL 2: Resources and State-building II
Chair: Peter Perdue (Yale University)

Alan Mikhail (Yale University)
“Domestic Animals and Economic Transformation in Ottoman Egypt”

Anne McCants (MIT)
“Building in Stone: Clerical and Lay Political Struggle in the High Middle Ages”

Respondent: Ken Pomeranz (UC Irvine)

5:00 PM KEYNOTE LECTURE: Richard White (Stanford University)
“Incommensurate Measures: Nature, History, and Economics”
Introduced and moderated by John Mack Faragher (Yale University)


9:00-10:15 AM PANEL 3: Empire and Resources in the Ancient Mediterranean
Chair: Francesca Trivellato (Yale University)

R. Bruce Hitchner, (Tufts University)
“Too Many Men: Population, Resources, and the Origins of Roman Expansionism"

John Haldon (Princeton University)
“Resources, Markets and the State: The Case of Byzantium”

Respondent: Peter Temin (MIT)

10:45-12:00 PM PANEL 4: Water
Chair: K. (Shivi) Sivaramakrishnan (Yale University)

Ling Zhang (Yale Agrarian Studies Fellow/Boston College)
“From ‘Controlling Floods’ to ‘Managing a River’: The Chinese State and the Political History of the Yellow River”

Arupjyoti Saikia (Yale Agrarian Studies Fellow/ IIT Guwahati)
“Jute or Flood: Exploring the fate of certain schemes in the Brahmaputra River Valley”

Respondent: Richard Hornbeck (Harvard University)

12:00-1:00 PM BUFFET LUNCH

1:00-2:30 PM PANEL 5: Comparative Perspectives on Resources and Governance
Moderator: Paul Sabin (Yale University)

Nancy Langston (University of Wisconsin)
John McNeill (Georgetown University)
Timothy Mitchell (Columbia University)