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Micah Muscolino

Professor and Paul G. Pickowicz Endowed Chair in Modern Chinese History

Micah Muscolino received his B.A. from UC Berkeley (1999) and Ph.D. from Harvard University (2006). He specializes in the environmental history of modern China.

His first book, Fishing Wars and Environmental Change in Late Imperial and Modern China (2009), focused on the history of China’s most important marine fishery, the waters around the Zhoushan Islands, from its nineteenth-century expansion to the exhaustion of its main commercial fish stocks in the 1970s. Examining the private and state interests that shaped struggles for the control of common resources, this study made a pioneering contribution to the field of Chinese environmental history by demonstrating how local, regional, and transnational forces intersected to transform the marine ecosystem.

His second book The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938-1950 (2015) engaged with the historiography of war and militarization in modern China and the interdisciplinary scholarship on war and the environment in world history. This study focused on Henan province, a frontline territory that endured massive environmental destruction and human dislocation during World War II. Tracing the history of Henan’s war-induced flood and famine disasters and their aftermath, the book conceptualized the ecology of war in terms of energy flows through and between militaries, societies, and environments. Efforts to procure and exploit nature's energy in various forms shaped military strategy, the fates of refugees, and the trajectory of environmental change.

He is currently researching the history of water and soil conservation in Northwest China’s Loess Plateau region from the 1940s to the present. Drawing on county-level archives and fieldwork conducted in villages in Northwest China’s Gansu province, the project explores how state-led water and soil conservation campaigns in Gansu transformed the biophysical environment and altered the lives of people who depended on water and soil for their survival.

He has also published numerous articles on China’s place in global environmental history, maritime connections between Mainland China and Taiwan, energy history, and the history of territorial disputes in the South China Sea. As organizer and editor of the “Historical Perspectives on China’s Environment” series for, he seeks to heighten the impact of Chinese environmental history by making cutting-edge academic research accessible to journalists, NGOs, and policymakers.

He has been a member of the School of Historical Studies at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ with funding from a Mellon Fellowship for Assistant Professors and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and an invited Visiting Professor at Harvard University. His research has also received fellowships and grants from the British Academy, the Chiang Chiang-kuo Foundation, and the Fulbright Program.

Muscolino taught at St. Mary’s College of California, Georgetown University, and the University of Oxford before coming to UCSD in 2018. In addition to teaching undergraduate and graduate courses on the history of modern China and environmental history, he directs Ph.D. students working on all topics in Chinese history during late Qing, Republican, and PRC periods.

Peer-reviewed Books:

The Ecology of War in China: Henan Province, the Yellow River, and Beyond, 1938-1950. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2015. Chinese translation. Beijing: Jiuzhou Press, 2021.

Fishing Wars and Environmental Change in Late Imperial and Modern China. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center and Harvard University Press, 2009. Chinese translation. Nanjing: Jiangsu People’s Publishing House, 2015.

Edited with Liu Ts’ui-jung. Perspectives on Environmental History in East Asia: Changes in the Land, Water, and Air. London: Routledge, 2021.

Peer-reviewed Journal Articles:

“Water Has Aroused the Girls’ Hearts”: Gendering Water and Soil Conservation in 1950s China.” Past & Present, forthcoming 2021.  

“Transform the Land, Train the Youth: Water and Soil Conservation Teams and State-Induced Migration in mid-1960s China.” Journal of Chinese History, July 2021.

“The Contradictions of Conservation: Fighting Erosion in Mao-Era China, 1953–66.” Environmental History, April 2020.

“Tianshui’s Three Treasures: Water and Soil Conservation in Wartime Northwest China.” The Journal of Modern Chinese History, September 2019.

"Woodlands, Warlords, and Wasteful Nations: Transnational Networks and Conservation Science in 1920s China." Comparative Studies in Society and History, July 2019.

“Woods and Warfare in Korea and the World: A View from China.” The Journal of Asian Studies, May 2018.

“Energy, Ecology, and Enterprise in Liu Hongsheng’s Cement and Coal Briquette Companies, 1920-1937.” Twentieth-Century China, May 2016.

“Past and Present Resource Conflict in the South China Sea: The Case of Reed Bank.” Cross-Currents East Asian History and Culture Review, e-journal September 2013; print November 2013.

“Violence Against People and the Land: Refugees and the Environment in China’s Henan Province, 1938-1945.” Environment and History, May 2011.

“Refugees, Land Reclamation, and Militarized Landscapes in Wartime China: Huanglongshan, Shaanxi, 1937–45.” The Journal of Asian Studies, May 2010.

“Global Dimensions in Modern China’s Environmental History.” World History Connected, March 2009. Chinese translation in Wenxuejie, June 2011.

“The Yellow Croaker War: Fishery Disputes between China and Japan, 1925-1935.” Environmental History, April 2008. Earlier version was published as “Sino-Japanese Fishing Disputes, 1924-1932: Environmental Change and Territorial Sovereignty in International Perspective,” in Niu Dayong and William C. Kirby, ed. China’s Interactions with the World: Internationalization, Internalization, and Externalization (Zhengzhou: Henan People’s Publishing House, 2007).

“A Forest of Sails and Masts: Environment and Economy in an Early Twentieth-Century Chinese Fishery.” Twentieth-Century China, November 2005.

Peer-reviewed Book Chapters:

“Mud on Your Boots: Researching the Social and Environmental History of Conservation in Baishui County, Shaanxi during the 1950s,” in Thomas DuBois and Jan Kiely, ed. Fieldwork in Modern Chinese History: A Research Guide (London: Routledge, 2019).

“Conceptualizing Wartime Flood and Famine in China,” in Simo Laakkonen, Richard Tucker and Timo Vuorisalo, ed. The Long Shadows: Toward a Global Environmental History of the Second World War (Corvallis: Oregon State University Press, 2017).

 “The Energetics of Militarized Landscapes: The Ecology of War in Henan, 1938-1950,” in Ts’ui-jung Liu and James Beattie, ed. Environment, Modernization and Development in East Asia (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016).

“Underground at Sea: Fishing, Smuggling, and Alternative Transactions across the Taiwan Strait, 1970s-1990s,” in Wen-hsin Yeh, ed. Mobile Horizons: Dynamics across the Taiwan Straits (Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, UC Berkeley, 2013).

“Fisheries Build Up the Nation: Maritime Environmental Encounters Between China and Japan,” in Julia Adeney Thomas, Ian Miller, and Brett Walker, ed. Nature’s Horizons: Japan’s Environmental Legacy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2013).

“Fishing and Whaling,” in Erin Stewart and J.R. McNeill, ed. A Companion to Global Environmental History (New York: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).      

Other Articles (not peer-reviewed):

“Overfishing fuels China’s maritime disputes,” October 2016. The Third Pole

“Yellow River flood, 1938-47,” September 2015.

Co-editor, “‘Zhongguo huangjingshi yanjiu’ biji” (Notes on ‘Chinese environmental history research’). Jianghan Luntan (Jianghan forum), May 2014.

“Zhongguo huanjingshi yanjiu de xin qushi” (New directions in Chinese environmental history research). Jianghan Luntan (Jianghan forum), May 2014.

“Agricultural Production: Fishery and Aquaculture since 1800,” in The Encyclopedia of Modern China (Gale-Macmillan Reference, 2009).

Book Reviews in Peer-reviewed Journals:

Brian DeMare, Land Wars: The Story of China's Agrarian Revolution. In Twentieth-Century China, May 2020.

  1. Elena Songster, Panda Nation: The Construction and Conservation of China’s Modern Icon. In The American Historical Review, April 2020.

Xiaojia Hou, Negotiating Socialism in Rural China: Mao, Peasants, and Local Cadres in Shanxi 1949–1953. In Journal of Chinese Studies, July 2018.

Prasenjit Duara, The Crisis of Global Modernity: Asian Traditions and a Sustainable Future. In Environmental History, April 2017.

Toby Lincoln, Urbanizing China in War and Peace: The Case of Wuxi County. In Pacific Affairs, March 2017.

Diana Lary, China’s Civil War: A Social History, 1945-1949. In The China Journal, January 2017.

Patrick Fuliang Shan, Taming China’s Wilderness: Settlement and the Shaping of the Heilongjiang Frontier. In China Quarterly, March 2015.

Kurkpatrick Dorsey, Whales and Nations: Environmental Diplomacy on the High Seas. In Canadian Journal of History, Spring-Summer 2015.

Robert Marks, China: Its Environment and History. In Environmental History, December 2013.

Judith Shapiro, China’s Environmental Challenges. H-Net, September 2013.

Joseph Morgan Hodge, Triumph of the Expert: Agrarian Discourses of Development and the Legacies of British Colonialism. In Itinerario: International Journal on the History of European Expansion and Global Interaction, March 2009.

Peter Boomgaard, ed. A World of Water: Rain, Rivers and Seas in Southeast Asian Histories. In Environmental History, October 2008.

Tomoko Shiroyama, China during the Great Depression: Market, State, and the World Economy, 1929-1937. In Chinese Business History Newsletter, June 2008.

Steven B. Miles, The Sea of Learning: Mobility and Identity in Nineteenth-Century Guangzhou. In The Journal of Asian Studies, May 2008.

Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells, Nature and Nation: Forests and Development in Peninsular Malaysia. H-Net, September 2007.

Max Spoor, Nico Heerink, and Futian Qu, eds. Dragons With Clay Feet? Transition, Sustainable Land Use, and Rural Environment in China and Vietnam. H-Net, August 2007.



HILD 10 – East Asia the Great Tradition

HIEA 131 – China in War and Revolution 1911-49

HIEA 155 – China and the Environment



HIGR   210: History and Historiography of Modern China

HIGR 215A/B - Research Seminar in Modern Chinese History