Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Malaria, water management, and identity in the English lowlands

Bankoff, Greg


Greg Bankoff


Much of the eastern seaboard of England lying between East Yorkshire and the Pevensey Levels in Kent constitutes an English Lowlands, a distinctive region characterized by large areas of marsh and fen, and a subculture borne out of the vicissitudes and travails of living with the constant risk of flood and storm surge. But this was a landscape where dangers lurked not only in the unstable ground but also in the air, where it was considered that the miasmic vapors laid low even the locals with the ague or marsh fever that had popularly begun to be called after the Italian “bad air” (mal-aria), or malaria. Together water and air defined the English Lowlands as separate and apart from the rest of the country. However, this was also a changing environment, one that underwent a profound transformation as the land was drained and its soils made arable. As the water receded, so too did the incidence of Plasmodium vivax. This article examines the puzzling relationship between water and malaria, especially in the nineteenth century: how as the former was drained from the land so the latter apparently disappeared from the human bloodstream, and how, in the absence of both, the English Lowlands began to fade from the national consciousness.


Bankoff, G. (2018). Malaria, water management, and identity in the English lowlands. Environmental History, 23(3), 470-494.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Nov 27, 2017
Online Publication Date Jan 29, 2018
Publication Date Jul 1, 2018
Deposit Date Dec 12, 2017
Publicly Available Date Jan 30, 2019
Journal Environmental history
Print ISSN 1084-5453
Electronic ISSN 1930-8892
Publisher Oxford University Press
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 23
Issue 3
Pages 470-494
Keywords Environmental Science (miscellaneous); History
Public URL
Publisher URL


Article (1.1 Mb)

Copyright Statement
© The Author(s) 2018. Published by Oxford University Press on behalf of the American Society for Environmental History and the Forest History Society. All rights reserved.

You might also like

Downloadable Citations