This paper argues that historians have all but ignored the study of rivers and their impact on the development of human society. Apart from a somewhat terse acknowledgment of the importance of rivers in the development of ancient civilizations, from the Huang He to the Ganges, the Nile, and the Amazon, historians have by and large limited themselves to studying individual rivers, while ignoring the potential of comparative analysis of rivers. I call for a broader engagement by historians of all aspects of rivers, including their role in transportation, fishing, agriculture, industry, recreation, and the environment, peopled cultural response to rivers, and the legal regimes that have grown up around them, with special reference to the role of rivers as political boundaries.
Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences
Lincoln Paine is a maritime historian, author, editor, and curator whose books include the award-winning The Sea and Civilization: A Maritime History of the World (2013), Down East: A Maritime History of Maine (2000;reissued in 2018 as Down East: An Illustrated History of Maritime Maine), and Ships of the World: An Historical Encyclopedia (1997). He has written and lectured worldwide on a range of maritime topics, including literature of the sea, exploration, museum curatorship, decorative arts, maritime law, trade, naval history, and rivers. He has been an editor at Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction and Sea History magazine. He is a trustee of the Maine Maritime Museum.Lincoln.Paine@gmail.com.