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Land of Thirst, Land of Fear: A History of Water in the Sahara from Empire to Oil

As French empire builders confronted manifold Saharan contestations of colonialism in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, they intended to remake the land and people of the desert through images and policies both congruent with and dissimilar to earlier representations of the land of thirst and fear. At the same time, however, denizens of the Sahara countered with a more intimate, immediate, and, at times, secret knowledge of their natural environment. The natural environment in which empire unfolded, the desert itself, loomed as a battleground where colonial pretensions to knowledge and Saharan rejections of them played out, with long-lasting consequences for the ecological world of the desert.