Flood: nature and culture.

Flood: nature and culture. John Withington.

London: Reaktion Books, 2013. Octavo, paperback, photographs, illustrations.

This cultural and natural history of floods tells of the deadliest floods the world has seen, while also exploring the role of the deluge in religion, mythology, literature and art.

From the flood that prompted Noah's ark to the 1931 China floods that killed millions of 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, and acts of vengeful leaders. They have been used as deliberate acts of war to cause thousands of casualties. Flooding kills far more people than any other natural disaster.

Withington describes how the power and effects of floods 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 photographs and illustrations, Flood offers a fascinating overview of our relationship with one of humanity’s oldest and deadliest foes.

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