About this collection

This painting shows Lisbon, Portugal, during the severe earthquake of 1 November 1755 as seen from across the Tagus River. The city in ruins and in flames. The earthquake caused a tsunami, the painting shows the highly disturbed water in the harbor, which sank many ships. The earthquake and its consequences potentially caused the deaths of up to 100,000 people.

The shifting of tectonic plates, for instance, may not be absolutely predictable, but from a geological point of view it is 'normal.' The vast majority of these shifts go unnoticed, and no geologist would think of labeling them a catastrophe. In other cases, nature may supply the trigger for a disaster, but whether we call a natural occurrence a catastrophe depends largely on our perception of its impact on humans.

—Christof Mauch. (From Natural Disaster, Cultural Responses. Case Studies Toward a Global Environmental History, edited by Christof Mauch and Christian Pfister, 4. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2009.)


Extreme natural events happen all the time, such as storms, earthquakes, droughts, or landslides for instance, but they only become disasters if they affect inhabited areas and if they meet populations that are unprepared for them. This new Arcadia collection will present interesting environmental histories from around the world that address disasters in the past and present. Some existing Arcadia articles in this collection are about epidemics, accidents in nuclear power plants, and floods, but this "Disaster Histories" Arcadia collection is open to new contributions.


The collection is curated by Katrin Kleemann (Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society).

--> Information on how to contribute.

Showing 16–23 of 23 results
The North Sea Flood of 1953
Hall, Alexander Arcadia 2013, no. 5
The Great Fear: The Polesine Flood of 1951
Hardenberg, Wilko Graf von Arcadia 2013, no. 3
The Nuclear Disaster of Kyshtym 1957 and the Politics of the Cold War
Rabl, Thomas Arcadia 2012, no. 20
Disaster Ahead: How Danube Floods Created Telegraph Networks
Neundlinger, Michael Arcadia 2012, no. 7
The Great Flood of 1962 in Hamburg
Mauch, Felix Arcadia 2012, no. 6
Expecting Disaster: The 1963 Landslide of the Vajont Dam
Hardenberg, Wilko Graf von Arcadia 2011, no. 8
The Hamburg Flood in Public Memory Culture
Mauch, Felix Arcadia 2011, no. 4
Nuclear Power, No Thanks! The Aftermath of Chernobyl in Italy and the Nuclear Power Referendum of 1987
Hardenberg, Wilko Graf von Arcadia 2011, no. 3