Journal Article

Malaria, Water Management, and Identity in the English Lowlands

Greg Bankoff

in Environmental History

Published on behalf of American Society for Environmental History

Volume 23, issue 3, pages 470-494
Published in print July 2018 | ISSN: 1084-5453
Published online January 2018 | e-ISSN: 1930-8892 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/envhis/emx137
Malaria, Water Management, and Identity in the English Lowlands

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Abstract

Much of the eastern seaboard of England lying between East Yorkshire and the Pevensey Levels in Kent constitutes an English Lowlands, a distinctive region characterized by large areas of marsh and fen, and a subculture borne out of the vicissitudes and travails of living with the constant risk of flood and storm surge. But this was a landscape where dangers lurked not only in the unstable ground but also in the air, where it was considered that the miasmic vapors laid low even the locals with the ague or marsh fever that had popularly begun to be called after the Italian “bad air” (mal-aria), or malaria. Together water and air defined the English Lowlands as separate and apart from the rest of the country. However, this was also a changing environment, one that underwent a profound transformation as the land was drained and its soils made arable. As the water receded, so too did the incidence of Plasmodium vivax. This article examines the puzzling relationship between water and malaria, especially in the nineteenth century: how as the former was drained from the land so the latter apparently disappeared from the human bloodstream, and how, in the absence of both, the English Lowlands began to fade from the national consciousness.

Journal Article.  10144 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Environmental History ; Environment ; Environmentalist Thought and Ideology (Social Science)

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