A Drop in the Ocean. On Writing Histories of Water Resources Management

Maurits W. Ertsen, Ruth A. Morgan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Conference proceedings/Edited volumeChapterScientificpeer-review

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This text builds on the shared focus of historians and engineers to understand how particular circumstances came to be. In their endeavours, engineers regularly turn attention to the past, many times with the explicit aim to build on the past. In this chapter, it is discussed why these water histories written by engineers are vulnerable to being less correct. Using a range of scholarship on water history and shared experiences within the International Water History Association, we discuss the core of any historical scholarship: a drive to demonstrate and understand the complexity of the past. As such, this chapter wants to warn against the engineering drive to use (water) history as a guide towards the future. Instead, we propose a perspective of history as a way of reading and understanding the complex paths we have travelled until now.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbook of Water Resources Management
Subtitle of host publicationDiscourses, Concepts and Examples
EditorsJanos J. Bogardi, Joyeeta Gupta, K. D. Wasantha Nandalal, Léna Salamé, Ronald R.P. van Nooijen, Navneet Kumar, Tawatchai Tingsanchali, Anik Bhaduri, Alla G. Kolechkina
Place of PublicationCham
Number of pages15
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-60147-8
Publication statusPublished - 2021

Bibliographical note

Green Open Access added to TU Delft Institutional Repository ‘You share, we take care!’ – Taverne project https://www.openaccess.nl/en/you-share-we-take-care Otherwise as indicated in the copyright section: the publisher is the copyright holder of this work and the author uses the Dutch legislation to make this work public.


  • Historiography
  • Grand narratives
  • Deserts
  • Colonial irrigation
  • Climate change


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