Rivers of Power

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What to expect

Brought to you by Penguin.

Rivers, more than any road, technology or political event, have shaped the course of civilization.

In Rivers of Power, geographer Laurence C. Smith tells the sweeping story of rivers and how they made us. Rivers have opened frontiers, defined borders, supported trade, generated energy and fed billions. Most of our greatest cities stand on river banks or deltas, and our quest for mastery has spurred staggering advances in engineering, science and law. Rivers and their topographic divides have shaped the territories of nations and the migration of peoples, and yet – as their resources become ever more precious – can foster cooperation even among enemy states. And though they are increasingly domesticated, they remain a formidable global force: these vast arterial powers promote life but are capable of destroying everything in their path.

From ancient Egypt to the space age to our growing contemporary metropolises, Rivers of Power reveals why rivers matter so profoundly to human civilization, and how they continue to be indispensable to our societies and wellbeing.

©Laurence C. Smith 2020 (P) Penguin Audio 2020

Critics Review

  • Smith takes readers on a tour of the world’s great rivers. The result is fascinating, eye-opening, sometimes alarming, and ultimately inspiring.

    Elizabeth Kolbert, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Sixth Extinction
  • A tour de forcea narrative as powerful as the rivers he documents. He is up there with Jared Diamond – a storyteller with real craft. From Herodotus musing on the Nile to the dam makers of modern China, this is their story.

    Fred Pearce, author of When The Rivers Run Dry
  • This book about rivers is as fascinating as it is beautifully written

    Jared Diamond, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of Guns, Germs and Steel, and Upheaval
  • Passionate… and infectiously enthusiastic … an eclectic journey through several millennia.

    The Financial Times
  • Instructive and entertaining. Smith’s prose is clear and he explains scientific concepts well.

    The Times
  • A hymn to hydrology ancient and modern.

    The Spectator

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