Skip to main content

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

From the flood that remade the earth in the Old Testament to the 1931 China floods that killed almost four million people, from the broken levees in New Orleans to the almost yearly rising waters of rivers like the Mississippi, floods have many causes: rain, melting ice, storms, tsunamis, failures of dams and levees, acts of vengeful gods. They have been used as deliberate acts of war to cause thousands of casualties. Flooding kills far more people than any other natural disaster. In this cultural and natural history of floods, John Withington tells stories of the deadliest floods the world has seen while also exploring the role of the deluge in religion, mythology, literature, and art.
Withington describes how aspects of floods—the power of nature, human drama, changed landscapes—have fascinated artists, novelists, and filmmakers. He examines the ancient, catastrophic flood that appears in many religions and cultures and considers how the symbol of the flood has become a key icon in world literatures and a component of the contemporary disaster movie. Withington also depicts how humans try to defend themselves against these merciless encroaching waters and discusses the increasing danger floods pose in a future beset by climate change. Filled with illustrations, Flood offers a fascinating overview of our relationship with one of humanity’s oldest and deadliest foes.

192 pages | 70 color plates, 30 halftones | 6 x 8 1/4 | © 2013


Biological Sciences: Natural History

Reaktion Books image

View all books from Reaktion Books


“As Withington demonstrates, floods have always been with us: they killed more than 3 million in China in 1931. If inundation has been feared since the time of Noah, it is scarcely going to be reduced by the greenhouse effect or building on flood plains.” 


“In his attractively illustrated book, Withington deals with an enormous subject at a brisk pace. He has a knack of picking out precise examples and saying just enough about them . . . what distinguishes Flood is its scope and its readiness to move on from nature and science to human concerns and the different ways they have been expressed in culture.” 

Eastern Daily Press

“Disaster historian John Withington’s new book Flood: Nature and Culture reveals that dozens of religions in different parts of the world have their own tales of apocalyptic deluges—perhaps a reflection of the fact that floods are the natural disaster most commonly suffered by humanity.” 

Yareah Magazine

“By incorporating both the fear and the fascination of floods, Withington presents a three-dimensional introduction. . . . The off-hand, easy prose could be what keeps the book refreshing rather than depressive. . . . Will be enjoyed by students of natural resource and general readers alike. Recommended.”


Table of Contents


1  Myth

2  Reality

3  Description: Floods in Literature

4  Depiction: Floods in Art and Films

5  Defence

6  Defeat?


Notable Floods


Select Bibliography

Associations and Websites

Photo Acknowledgements


Be the first to know

Get the latest updates on new releases, special offers, and media highlights when you subscribe to our email lists!

Sign up here for updates about the Press