Historical Concepts of Disaster and Risk

Authored by: Greg Bankoff

The Routledge Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction

Print publication date:  December  2011
Online publication date:  March  2012

Print ISBN: 9780415590655
eBook ISBN: 9780203844236
Adobe ISBN: 9781136918698

10.4324/9780203844236.ch4

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Abstract

Asking why disasters happen depends much upon one’s disciplinary perspective, but realising how they occur is always a question of history. Managing risk may be a matter of dealing with the political, social, economic and environmental dimensions of people and hazards, but understanding the particular nature of vulnerability and resilience in any situation is quintessentially an historical question: To recognise what makes people, households, communities and societies vulnerable or resilient in the present, you need to appreciate what made them that way over time. The old adage says that it is not earthquakes that kill people but buildings; actually it is not buildings so much as where they are situated, what they are made from, how they are built and why people use them that way that proves so fatal. Some people refer to the shared set of attitudes, values, goals and practices that inform all human activities as culture, and recently much more consideration has been accorded the role of culture in disasters; however, history underlies culture too, providing both its origins and the measure of its change.

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