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Unit information: Calamities: Natural and Unnatural Disasters in the Modern World (Level I Special Field) in 2015/16

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Unit name Calamities: Natural and Unnatural Disasters in the Modern World (Level I Special Field)
Unit code HIST20076
Credit points 20
Level of study I/5
Teaching block(s) Teaching Block 2 (weeks 13 - 24)
Unit director Dr. Daniel Haines
Open unit status Not open



Special Field Project

School/department Department of History (Historical Studies)
Faculty Faculty of Arts

Description including Unit Aims

Natural disasters devastate South Asia. Catastrophic floods in Pakistan in 2010 and the 2004 tsunami in India killed thousands and wiped away communities. But what lies behind the news headlines? How do people experience events like these? This course examines the causes and consequences of ‘natural’ disasters in modern South Asia. It asks not only how and why disasters occur, but addresses their wider cultural, social and political ramifications. Humanitarian crisis is nothing new: topics also include famine in the nineteenth century, malaria in the 1950s, and industrial accidents such as the tragic gas leak in Bhopal during the 1980s. The unit uses primary sources ranging from diaries and oral histories to photographs and film, introducing different approaches to studying the way that humans have interacted with volatile environments. Along the way, the unit introduces students to important historical themes including colonialism, nationalism, post-colonial society, religious tensions, and consequences of modernisation. The unit surveys moments of catastrophe that have helped to define the relationships between people and their environments in the region.

Intended Learning Outcomes

On successful completion of this unit students will have developed 1. a broad awareness of the nature and impacts of disasters in Asia; 2. a sophisticated understanding of the causes of calamities and the extent to which human factors have contributed to both their occurrence and impact; 3. the ability to set individual issues within their longer term historical context; 4. the ability to analyse and generalise about issues of continuity and change; 5. the ability to select pertinent evidence/data in order to illustrate/demonstrate more general historical points; 6. the ability to derive benefit from and contribute effectively to large group discussion; 7. the ability to identify a particular academic interpretation, evaluate it critically and form an individual viewpoint; 8. the acquisition of key writing, research, and presentation skills.

Teaching Information

Weekly 2-hour seminar Access to tutorial advice with unit tutor in consultation hours.

Assessment Information

2-hour unseen written examination (summative, 100%)

The examination will assess ILOs 1-8 by assessing the students’ understanding of the unit’s key themes, the related historiography as developed during their reading and participation in / learning from small group seminars, and relevant primary sources. Further assessment of their handling of the relevant primary sources will be provided by the co-requisite Special Field Project.

Reading and References

Mary J. Campell, Daughters of India (1908) [available online] Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Nino famines and the making of the Third World (2001) Paul Greenough and Anna Lowenhaupt Tsing (eds), Nature in the Global South: Environmental projects in South and Southeast Asia (2003) David Hall-Matthews, Peasants, famine and the state in colonial Western India (2005) Edward Simpson and Stuart Corbridge,‘The Geography of Things that may Become Memories: The 2001 Earthquake in Kachchh-Gujarat and the Politics of Rehabilitation in the Prememorial Era’, Annals of the Association of American Geographers Vol 96, No 3 (2006), pp.566–85 Ben Wisner, J.C. Gaillard and Ilan Kelman (eds), The Routledge Handbook of Hazards and Disaster Risk Reduction (2012)