Yan Gao

Membership:  2016

Member Bio

Yan Gao is a historian of late imperial and modern China. She works at the juncture of social and environmental history. Her main areas of interest include water management in Central China, the history of the Yangtze and the Han Rivers, and the relationship between water and society from a comparative and global perspective. She also delves into thematic topics, such as ethnicity and environment, and war and the environment. At the Rachel Carson Center, she is working on her first book on the interactions among the state, society, and ecology that transformed the Middle Yangzi region in late imperial and modern China. She is also starting her second project on waterway transport and resource mobilization on the Yangtze and its tributaries from the nineteenth century onwards. She has a BA and MA from Wuhan University (2000 and 2003) and PhD from Carnegie Mellon University (2012). She taught in Qatar and Bangladesh, and held an instructor position at the University of Memphis.


  • “The Retreat of the Horse: The Manchus, Land Reclamation, and Local Ecology in the Jianghan Plain (ca. 1700s–1850s).” In Environmental History in East Asia: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, edited by Tsui-jung Liu, 100–125. London and New York: Routledge, 2014.
  • “The Revolt of the Commons: Resilience and Conflicts in Water Management of the Jianghan Plain in Late Imperial China,” in “Resilience: A Journal of the Environmental Humanities,” special issue, Global Environmental Histories from Below. Forthcoming.