History of Natural Disasters (research)


Course Objective

Learning to design and conduct research independently; to apply concepts
and theories; to take a stand in a historical debate; to chair a
discussion; to review research proposals and research papers; to
participate actively in events of the Graduate School that match this

Course Content

All sorts of authorities discuss how to give priority to the
preservation of our planet for future generations. Often discussions
focus on sustainability and quality of live. This course will focus on
’nature-induced’ disasters on land and at sea during the nineteenth and
twentieth centuries, thereby taking for granted that most natural
disasters have a human component. Examples of natural disasters with
great impacts are the Tambora earthquakes of 1815 in Indonesia and 1923
in Japan, the floods of the Zuiderzee estuary in 1825 and 1916, the
tsunami in de Indian Ocean of 2004 and the Katrina flood of New Orleans
in 2005. A wide array of questions will be posed and addressed from
environmental, institutional, cultural and socio-economic historical
perspectives and environmental humanities. In this course we distinguish
two approaches, the management approach, including the history of
prevention of natural disasters (Pfister 2009) and the cultural
approach, the history of perceptions of natural disasters (Bankoff 2003,
Assmann 2008). Managing includes developing social, economic,
technological and political institutions and practices for prevention of
and coping with natural disasters, all aimed, ultimately, at the
improved resilience of a society. A historical question is how do long
term developments show changes from traditional coping mechanisms to
more ‘modern’ learning and investment in increasing resilience?
Perception of disasters may include ideas and memories. Perceptions are
important to understand the contemporary explanations of the causes of
disasters. In the long run we expect a gradual change from more
spiritual or religious explanations to more natural explanations,
informed by natural sciences. How does that interact with the perceived
possibilities for managing and preventing disasters? Perceptions are
also related to memories. How are commemorative narratives about
disasters formed? How do they contribute to collective memories like
nation building? How do memories contribute to building resilience?
(Pfister 2011). This course content is closely related to on-going
research projects and we will explore newspaper databases.

Teaching Methods

2 sessions of 2 hours per week in November and December.
Final presentations and submission research paper in January.
Presence at 80% of the sessions is mandatory.

Method of Assessment

Written Newspaper report (10%), Oral presentation (20%); Research paper

Target Audience

Students admitted to the Research Master of the Faculty of Humanities.

Additional Information

This research course is an option of the Research Master cross-cutting
theme Environmental Humanities. You sit in a class with also MA
students. RMA students will get more demanding tasks. The research paper
is aimed at producing a
publication for a scholarly journal, this includes positioning in a
historiographical debate and using original or primary (archive)

Recommended background knowledge

BA in History, MKDA (Art studies), Literature, Archeology, Ancient
Studies or a comparable historical degree.

General Information

Course Code L_GEMPGES002
Credits 9 EC
Period P2+3
Course Level 500
Language of Tuition English
Faculty Faculty of Humanities
Course Coordinator prof. dr. P.J.E.M. van Dam
Examiner prof. dr. P.J.E.M. van Dam
Teaching Staff prof. dr. P.J.E.M. van Dam

Practical Information

You need to register for this course yourself

Last-minute registration is available for this course.

Teaching Methods Seminar