A Pre-Modern Cultural History of Risk: Imagining the Future, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

A Pre-Modern Cultural History of Risk

Imagining the Future, 1st Edition

By Gaspar Mairal


296 pages

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Hardback: 9780367361853
pub: 2020-03-13
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This book answers the need for a contextual, long-term and interpretative analysis of risk from original sources.

Risk has historically been a way of imagining what could happen in the future based on expert theories and predictions. This book explores this notion of ‘managing the future’ by tracing the conceptual development of risk from its origin in Islamic Koranic theology. It follows its long voyage from mercantile law and navigation in Medieval Mediterranean and the Atlantic Ocean, to Columbus' arrival to the Indies and the Spanish exploration and colonization in the Americas. It considers the mathematical invention of probability in games of chance, the birth of journalism in Britain with Defoe’s Journal of the Plague Year, the earthquake of Lisbon in 1755 and the subsequent controversy between apocalyptic believers and enlightened philosophers. Tracking the growth and evolution of risk as a concept across various historical periods and events, Mairal highlights four key features of risk- time, knowledge, relationship and probability- and argues that risk is not based on perception as it is generally presented, but rather on knowledge accrued and developed over a vast historical time frame.

A Pre-Modern Cultural History of Risk will be of great interest to students and scholars of risk management.

Table of Contents

  1. The Mediterranean Origin of Risk
  2. The Conquest of the Ocean
  3. When Risk Navigated to the Americas
  4. When Risk Set Foot in the Americas
  5. From Narrative to the Probability Calculus
  6. Daniel Defoe and A Journal of the Plague Year
  7. The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755, or the First Modern Catastrophe
  8. Conclusion: risk in its historical context

About the Author

Gaspar Mairal is Professor of Social Anthropology at the University of Zaragoza, Spain.

About the Series

Earthscan Risk in Society

The Earthscan Risk in Society series publishes high quality research, teaching, practical and policy- related books on topics that address risk analysis, risk assessment, risk perception, risk management, uncertainty and decision-making in society. Professor Ragnar Lofstedt is the series editor and the series has published highly influential authors in the field of risk, including Ortwin Renn, Baruch Fischhoff and Paul Slovic.

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
BUSINESS & ECONOMICS / Insurance / Risk Assessment & Management
NATURE / Ecology