1st Edition

Disaster in the Early Modern World Examinations, Representations, Interventions

Edited By Ovanes Akopyan, David Rosenthal Copyright 2024
    338 Pages 32 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    How did early modern societies think about disasters, such as earthquakes or floods? How did they represent disaster, and how did they intervene to mitigate its destructive effects? This collection showcases the breadth of new work on the period ca. 1300-1750.

    Covering topics that range from new thinking about risk and securitisation to the protection of dikes from shipworm, and with a geography that extends from Europe to Spanish America, the volume places early modern disaster studies squarely at the intersection of intellectual, cultural and socio-economic history. This period witnessed fresh speculation on nature, the diffusion of disaster narratives and imagery and unprecedented attempts to control the physical world.

    The book will be essential to specialists and students of environmental history and disaster, as well as general readers who seek to discover how pre-industrial societies addressed some of the same foundational issues we grapple with today.


    Ovanes Akopyan and David Rosenthal

    Part 1: Examinations

    1. Taming the Future?: From ‘Natural’ Hazards and ‘Disasters’ to a Securitisation Against ‘Risks’

    Gerrit Jasper Schenk

    2. Power, Fortune and Scientia naturalis: A Humanist Reading of Disasters in Giannozzo Manetti’s De terremotu

    Ovanes Akopyan

    3. Thinking with the Flood: Animal Endangerment and the Moral Economy of Disaster

    Lydia Barnett

    4. Flood, Fire, and Tears: Imagining Climate Apocalypse in Scheuchzer’s De portione (1707/08)

    Sara Miglietti

    5. Communicating Research on the Great Frost in the Republic of Letters: From Halle to London

    William M. Barton

    Part 2: Representations

    6. What is an Avalanche?: Death in the Snow from Antiquity to Early Modern Times

    Martin Korenjak

    7. Disasters and Devotion: Sacred Images and Religious Practices in Spanish America (16th–18th Centuries)

    Milena Viceconte

    8. Straightening the Arno: Artistic Representations of Water Management in Medici Ducal and Grand Ducal Florence

    Felicia M. Else

    9. Responses to a Recurrent Disaster: Flood Writings in Rome, 1476–1598

    Pamela O. Long

    Part 3: Interventions

    10. Flood, War and Economy: Leonardo da Vinci and the Plan to Divert the Arno River

    Emanuela Ferretti

    11. The Making of a Transnational Disaster Saint: Francisco Borja, Patron Saint of Earthquakes from the Andes to Europe

    Monica Azzolini

    12. Dikes, Ships and Worms: Testing the Limits of Envirotechnical Transfer During the Dutch Shipworm Epidemic of the 1730s

    Adam Sundberg


    Ovanes Akopyan is a Marie Skłodowska-Curie fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice.

    David Rosenthal is a Research Fellow at the University of Exeter and co-director of Hidden Cities apps.