Home Lost Spaces Laocoön Lives Thomas Fairfax Publications Contact


Water Works: The Arts of Water Management, 1550–1800

Call for Chapter Proposals

Editors: Dr Rosamund Paice and Dr Claudine van Hensbergen, Northumbria University

At a time of environmental crisis, it has never been more important to engage with the history of mankind's exploitation of natural resources. This edited collection of essays will look at water, focusing on the arts of water management through the related fields of the arts, cultural history, and the environmental humanities. Our aim is to shed light on the ways in which humans managed water resources in the past, and ask what we can learn today from these histories.

While our ancestors used different terms to talk about the challenges and opportunities posed by water, they faced many of the same issues we face today. For example, then as now, it was necessary to create and maintain infrastructures, either to control abundant water or to attenuate its scarcity. Ensuring water's potability for growing populations was also an increasing concern. Those who sought to enjoy water recreationally, also had to look to practicalities. The question of how to exploit water's power, then, went hand in hand with attempts to manage – and exert power over – water.

Scholars interested in the "blue humanities" have done much to engage us with early modern constructions of "natural" waters and their human and non-human inhabitants, especially saltwater environments. Human-managed (and mismanaged) water systems have not garnered as much attention, but recent studies (Mukherji, Impossible Engineering, 2009; Ash, The Draining of the Fens, 2017) have shown the potential for the interdisciplinary study of human-managed water systems.

Water Works will contribute to this developing area of study, focusing on the period from 1550 to 1800. During this period of expanding European colonialism there was a significant rise in, and diversity of, forms of water management – including hydraulics, water regulation, flood mitigation, ornamental and recreational water, sewerage, and sanitation. Our essay collection will encompass that variety, bringing together discussions of engineering, natural history, landscape architecture, literature, and art, and speaking to a range of cultures, ecosystems, and bioregions.

Our aim is to produce a multidisciplinary and interdisciplinary volume, comprising approximately twelve 8,000-word chapters that will showcase new research in the environmental humanities and beyond.

We welcome proposals from scholars at all career stages, on topics including but not limited to:

  • Regulation, water law
  • Flood mitigation
  • Waterpower
  • Recreation and tourism
  • Health, bathing, sanitation
  • Waterscaping (prints, plans, designs)
  • Water systems, hydraulics
  • Practical and ornamental works
  • Wastewater and sewerage
  • Wasted water
  • Creative and instructive texts
  • Gardens, fens, canals, cities
  • Religion and ritual
  • Heritage and digital resources

Potential contributors are encouraged to consider how examples of water management reflect cultural values and generate cultural meaning, as well as ethical and environmental issues.

Proposals of 300–500 words for 8,000-word chapters should be sent to Dr Rosamund Paice by 15 December 2023



Twitter link image Mail link image Home link image