Journal Article
Water, Climate, and the Limits of Human Wisdom: Historical-Geographic Analogies Between Early Mughal and Modern South Asia

The expanding literature on climate change and water resources in South Asia includes a small number of works that stress the role of human wisdom—past, present, and future. Some studies draw attention to the “dying wisdom” of traditional water systems, whereas others seek wiser conceptual models for addressing climate change and water stresses. This article examines the historical geography of hydroclimatic adjustment in early Mughal India, with an emphasis on state formation in chronicles of the late sixteenth century. Notwithstanding claims of wisdom then, as now, water and climatic hazards had limited episodic salience in Mughal chronicles. Even so, Mughal sources identify indirect forms of human adjustment, ranging from land revenue policies to infrastructure investment, administrative reform, human mobility, and landscape interpretation that bear comparison with current deliberations.

Title
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2013
AuthorsWescoat J
JournalThe Professional Geographer
Volume66
Issue3
Pagination382-389
Date Published08/2013
Abstract

The expanding literature on climate change and water resources in South Asia includes a small number of works that stress the role of human wisdom—past, present, and future. Some studies draw attention to the “dying wisdom” of traditional water systems, whereas others seek wiser conceptual models for addressing climate change and water stresses. This article examines the historical geography of hydroclimatic adjustment in early Mughal India, with an emphasis on state formation in chronicles of the late sixteenth century. Notwithstanding claims of wisdom then, as now, water and climatic hazards had limited episodic salience in Mughal chronicles. Even so, Mughal sources identify indirect forms of human adjustment, ranging from land revenue policies to infrastructure investment, administrative reform, human mobility, and landscape interpretation that bear comparison with current deliberations.