Has Risk a History?

Authored by: Gaspar Mairal

The Routledge Companion to Media and Risk

Print publication date:  March  2020
Online publication date:  February  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138638938
eBook ISBN: 9781315637501
Adobe ISBN:


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Risk is a cultural–historical concept and this chapter is concerned with its genealogy. Risk is presented in diverse historical contexts which connect themselves in a lineage of topics that include, most significantly, religion, mercantile law, navigation, cartography, geographical discovery, colonization, gambling, arithmetic, epidemiology, journalism, literature. The most relevant historical contexts to observe the action of risk are those in which an expansion of ideas, technology, and economic and political regimes were shaping more global empires. Islam’s extension, the development of Mediterranean maritime trade, the conquest of the Atlantic Ocean, the navigation from Europe to America, and eighteen-century mercantilism, together with the growth of the big colonial metropolis such as London or Lisbon, were the appropriate scenarios for the concept of risk to evolve from religion to science and from narratives to probabilistic calculations.

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