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Cities under Siege: Flood in 1931 and Environmental Challenges of Chinese Urban Modernization

This talk goes over a historic explanation on the social and environmental causes of the 1931 flood. The flood in 1931 is believed to be the deadliest disaster in 20th century China with one-fourth of China’s population affected. But the conventional view that regards the flood as an “unavoidable” natural disaster does not explain why key urban centers along the Yangzi appeared unusually vulnerable and resulted  in great loss in the flood of 1931. The lecture took the worst affected urban region—Wuchang, Hankou, and Hanyang as the focus of study and explains why the urban centers whose flood prevention was historically important turned out to be defenseless in 1931. The talk explored the connection between the urban modernization process of the three cities since the late Qing and the resulting environmental vulnerabilities revealed in the 1931 flood.

Zhiguo Ye received her PhD in history at the University of Minnesota in Twin Cities in 2010. Her research interests include the socioeconomic and cultural history of modern China, Chinese urban history, and environmental studies. She is currently working on a manuscript based on her dissertation entitled “Big Is Modern: The Making of Wuhan as a Mega-City in Early Twentieth Century China, 1889-1957.”