Disaster and Human History

Case Studies in Nature, Society and Catastrophe


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About the Book

Natural disasters have played an integral role in human history. Volcanic eruptions have been credited with the fall of civilizations, pandemic diseases have affected multiple generations, and massive famines have killed or impoverished millions. But in many cases, “natural” disasters are anything but. Famines are almost invariably caused by or related to domestic and international wars, diseases are either intentionally or unintentionally spread, and, while humans play little to no role in producing volcanoes and other earth phenomena, the impact of these events are worsened by human decisions. This book examines the relationship between humanity and the natural environment through the lens of natural disasters, where the interaction comes into sharpest focus. Instructors considering this book for use in a course may request an examination copy here.

About the Author(s)

Benjamin Reilly is an environmental historian who has been working at Carnegie Mellon University’s branch campus in Qatar since 2004. His many publications have touched on topics as various as French Revolutionary ideological discourse, lactose tolerance amongst Arabian Bedouins, railroad-building in southern Florida, slavery and agriculture in the Arabian Peninsula, and Europe’s long engagement with the Eternal City of Rome.

Bibliographic Details

Benjamin Reilly

Format: softcover (7 x 10)
Pages: 399
Bibliographic Info: 117 photos, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2009
pISBN: 978-0-7864-3655-2
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments      v
Introduction      1

1. A Brief History of the Modern World      9

2. Volcanoes      31
2.1: Krakatau, 1883      42
2.2: Mount Pelée, 1902      52
2.3: Mount Pinatubo, 1991      62

3. Earthquakes      72
3.1: Messina Strait, 1908      85
3.2: Great Kanto Earthquake, 1923      93
3.3: Pakistani Earthquake, 2005      104

4. Environmental Changes      112
4.1: El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO)      122
4.2: Desertification      129
4.3: Global Warming      141

5. Tropical Cyclones      159
5.1: Great Bhola Cyclone, 1970      172
5.2: Cyclone Tracy, 1974      184
5.3: Hurricane Andrew, 1992      193

6. Floods and Tsunamis      206
6.1: Yellow River Flooding, 19th and 20th Century China      219
6.2: Flooding Caused by the Asian Tsunami, 2004      230
6.3: Flooding Caused by Hurricane Katrina, 2005      241

7. Famines      254
7.1: Irish Potato Famine, 1846–1852      266
7.2: Mao’s Great Leap Forward      276
7.3: Ethiopia, 1973–Present      286

8. Disease      297
8.1: Disease of Agriculture: Pellagra      315
8.2: Disease of Imperialism: Malaria      326
8.3: Disease of Industry: Cholera      340
8.4: Disease of Globalization: AIDS      353

Conclusion      370
Bibliography      377
Index      385

Book Reviews & Awards

  • “A very usable environmental manual…writing is engaging…could be a valuable resource…significantly relevant”—Teaching History: A Journal of Methods
  • “A very enjoyable read, offering the tension and drama these hazards deserve”—Natural Hazards Observer