While it may no longer be a topic of everyday conversation, the draining of the fens – vast wetland areas – of eastern England in the Seventeenth Century in order that they could be turned in to arable farmland was an engineering project of monumental proportions as well as effects. Like the more commonly mentioned Enclosure Acts that followed not long after, it brought about changes to the social, political, and ecological systems of the country that are still felt to this day.

In his new book, The Draining of the Fens, Projectors, Popular Politics, and State Building in Early Modern England, Professor Eric Ash of Wayne State University, takes up the history of this pivotal event in English – as well as environmental and scientific – history to bring the story of its causes, its challenges, and its continuing effects afresh into the minds of modern readers.