Weidenfeld & Nicolson has snapped up Liquid History by historian Dr Vanessa Taylor in a "significant five-figure" deal following a five-way UK auction, with bidding in the US still underway.
Alan Samson at W&N bought UK and Commonwealth rights (excluding Canada) to the narrative history of the Nile, Danube, Niger, Mississippi, Ganges, Yangtze and the Thames from Adam Gauntlett at PFD. The author anticipates delivering the final manuscript May 2021, which will run to approximately 100,000 words.
The book has been pre-empted in the Netherlands by Meulenhof Boekerij and was pre-empted in Italy by Garzanti just three days after submission. The US auction for Liquid History, which has had "huge amounts of interest internationally", continues.
Liquid History "is a story of imperial frontiers, alluvial gold, kidnappings, slavery, de-colonialism, creation myths and the killing of rivers. It is about those who’ve lived and died on these rivers and their endless capacity for invention: their harnessing of oases and aquifers, their lotus pools and hanging gardens, their gigantic canal systems and elaborate fishing rituals, their absolute powers and their sly rebellions," reads the synopsis. "At its heart are the empire-builders of the Chinese dynasties, Romans and Hindus and their river gods, the Habsburgs and Ottomans, Mughal emperors, the people of the Niger from Mali’s golden age to today, struggles of life and death on the Mississippi, and the dethroning of the British on the rivers of their unruly imperial subjects. This is the story of us, in seven rivers."
Gauntlett said: “The moment I met Vanessa, I was struck by her warmth, her ability to tell a good story and her erudition, which she wears so lightly. All of that finds physical form in this terrific book, which casts Nature as the narrator of our history – and through doing so is able to build a powerful portrait of man’s extraordinary capacity for both innovation and destruction.”
Taylor is a historian of water, rivers and environmental history at the University of Greenwich. She has published extensively, written for BBC History Magazine and appeared on Channel 4 TV, and is one of the foremost experts on the history of the river Thames. Liquid History will be her first book for the trade.