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Disasters and History
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Book description

Disasters and History offers the first comprehensive historical overview of hazards and disasters. Drawing on a range of case studies, including the Black Death, the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 and the Fukushima disaster, the authors examine how societies dealt with shocks and hazards and their potentially disastrous outcomes. They reveal the ways in which the consequences and outcomes of these disasters varied widely not only between societies but also within the same societies according to social groups, ethnicity and gender. They also demonstrate how studying past disasters, including earthquakes, droughts, floods and epidemics, can provide a lens through which to understand the social, economic and political functioning of past societies and reveal features of a society which may otherwise remain hidden from view. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.


‘Disasters and History is a unique expert review of approaches and findings of historical disaster research — the first of its kind. This path-breaking achievement will set the standards for a long time to come. What is more, it places the study of disasters right in the centre of our general understanding of history.'

Franz Mauelshagen - co-editor of The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History

‘This wide-ranging and ambitious book offers a new conceptual framework for understanding when and how natural hazards—in the form of extreme weather events, epidemics, or geological shocks—can be prevented from turning into disasters. A very timely book for these uncertain times.'

Cormac Ó Gráda - author of Eating People is Wrong: Essays on the History and Future of Famines

‘Disasters and History is a deeply researched volume by the foremost scholars from the field of disaster history. This book adds historical depth and breadth not only to the wider field of disaster studies, but also to our understanding the current predicament of the Anthropocene and a crisis such as the Corona-Pandemic.'

Eleonora Rohland - author of Changes in the Air: Hurricanes in New Orleans from 1718 to the Present

‘A clear message that early modern Europeans prepared for disasters. This message is linked to present-day resilience studies and flanked by observations on historical disaster responses beyond Europe. Historical studies engaging contemporary concerns offers potential inspiration for facing the future.'

R. Bin Wong - author (with Jean-Laurent Rosenthal) of Before and Beyond Divergence: The Politics of Economic Change in China and Europe

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Full book PDF
  • Disasters and History
    pp i-ii
  • Disasters and History - Title page
    pp iii-iii
  • The Vulnerability and Resilience of Past Societies
  • Copyright page
    pp iv-iv
  • Contents
    pp v-vi
  • Figures
    pp vii-vii
  • Tables
    pp viii-viii
  • Preface
    pp ix-x
  • 1 - Introduction: Disasters and History
    pp 1-21
  • 2 - Classifications and Concepts
    pp 22-42
  • 3 - History as a Laboratory: Materials and Methods
    pp 43-73
  • 4 - Disaster Preconditions and Pressures
    pp 74-104
  • 5 - Disaster Responses
    pp 105-122
  • 6 - Effects of Disasters
    pp 123-158
  • 7 - Past and Present
    pp 159-187
  • References
    pp 188-224
  • Index
    pp 225-232


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