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Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Distributed for Reaktion Books


Nature and Culture

Throughout history, swamps have been idealized and demonized, purged and protected. Today, they are simultaneously considered metaphorical places of evil, pestilence, and death, and treasured as diverse biological ecosystems teeming with life.

Covering not only swamps and bogs but also marshes and wetlands, Swamp ventures into the cultural and ecological histories of these mysterious, mythologized, and misunderstood landscapes. Anthony Wilson takes readers into swamps across the globe, from the freshwater marshes of Botswana’s tremendous Okavango delta, to the notable swamps between the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, to the peat bogs in Russia, the British Isles, and Scandinavia, which have been used as energy sources for centuries. It explores ideas and representations of wetlands across centuries, cultures, and continents, considering legend and folklore, mythology, literature, film, and natural and cultural history. As it plumbs the murky depths of swamps from the distant past to an uncertain future, Swamps provides an engaging, accessible, informative, and lavishly illustrated journey into these fascinating landscapes.

248 pages | 80 color plates, 20 halftones | 5 3/4 x 8 1/4


Earth Sciences: Oceanography and Hydrology

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"Swamps, once deemed tangles of putrefaction and peril, are only now receiving the respect they deserve. That's the dramatic arc of this beautifully illustrated social and literary history of wetlands."

Laurence A. Marschall | Natural History

"Wide-ranging. . . . Though more a cultural treatise than a scientific one, this is nonetheless a valuable resource for college and university collections. Recommended."


"This beautifully illustrated volume is one of a series, entitled Earth, which addresses the importance of both historical and cultural depictions of nature and its resources. The series augments the interconnectedness of ecosystems and humanity, and Wilson’s work fits well into this oeuvre because it explores the deadly legends and superstitions that are associated with swamps. Avoiding a didactic approach when highlighting their threatened status, Swamp raises awareness of the significance of preserving these wetlands by offering an accessible insight into real and fictional imagery of swamps, bogs, and marshes. . . . The book gives a fascinating insight into the lives of those who have lived in swamp environments throughout different time periods across the globe. . . . Wilson satisfyingly takes us through a journey of the swamp 'from poisonous hell to unspoiled Eden.'"


Table of Contents

Introduction: Terra Incognita
1 Swamp as Home: People of the Swamps
2 Swamp as Quagmire: Obstacle, Trial and Problem
3 Swmap as Horror: Monsters, Miasma and Menace
4 Swamp as Spectacle: Paradise, Sanctuary, Aesthetic Object
Postscript: Paradise Lost? The Swamps’ Uncertain Future
Appendix: An Array of Major World Wetlands
Photo Acknowledgements

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