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EAUH Conference 2018


Session M07 - Natural Disasters and the Urban: Earthquakes, Floods and Great Fires in Early Modern Cities 1400-1800

Coordinators: Domenico Cecere (, Matthew Davies (, Mina Ishizu (, Koichi Watanabe (

Read Session abstractThis session asks how early modern cities were shaped by the impact of natural disasters and interactions between humans and the environment. The session will showcase cross-disciplinary research papers relating to earthquakes, urban floods and great fires in the early modern period that are informed by insights from disciplines such as history, climate studies, archival document-based research and archaeology. It draws on three main strands of research. First, engagement between urban historians and environmental historians, which informs studies of the historical development of cities, urban societies and cultures. Second, the contemporary environmental context where dialogue between historians and disaster/environmental studies informs understanding of the impacts on cities and inhabitants in the context of climate change. The role of the environment as ‘actor’ is increasingly part of historical discourse, interlinked with human agency - for example in the development of water systems and responses to flooding. Third, the flourishing dialogue between cultural and historical traditions concerning the history of disasters: in Japan and elsewhere distinctive historiographies have been shaped by the frequency and endemic nature of disasters; ‘episodic’ disasters in western Europe have been seen as interruptions or sometimes paradigmatic moments in city histories. There is much to be gained from dialogue between these perspectives and the historiographical priorities given to certain types of impacts or responses to disasters in historical cities. A comparative and/or transnational perspective is needed as natural disasters are transcultural phenomena to a certain extent confronting people in different civilizations with similar hazards. Research shows that different patterns of coping with disasters coexisted in the early modern period: societies drew on different types of cultural resources to survive and recover. The session seeks to benefit from cross-disciplinary research and insights from disciplines such as climate studies, urban history and archaeology.

As well as studies of individual cities the organisers encourage interdisciplinary and/or comparative papers. We especially invite papers which deal with one or more of these questions:

• How have early modern cities and inhabitants responded to natural disasters?
• What have been the roles of knowledge/memory in responses?
• Did preventative strategies reflect visions of how early modern cities should function?
• How did early modern disasters shape societal engagement with and understanding of climates and environments?
• How have individuals and groups used cultural forms to understand disasters?
Keywords: resilience; environment; disaster; cities; early modern; governance; culture

Thursday 30th August 2018
  Room 08 13.30-15.00, 15.30-17.00



Prevent the big water. Flood control measures in Prague (Bohemia) issued by public administrative bodies in late 18th century
Ondřej Hudeček

Facing the Floods. The regulation of the Tiber Basin during the Little Ice Age
Renato Sansa

"Nothing but treetops and roofs were visible”: Flood Management in Sixteenth- and Seventeenth-Century Seville
Igor Knezevic

Environmental disasters in a comparative perspective: the Great Fires in London and istanbul
Elina Gugliuzzo

“Los rríos paresçían braços de mar”. Interpretations about the perception of natural disasters through the Castilian Chronicles during the XVth century.
Diana Pelaz Flores

Cusco, 1650: terremoto, renovation and tradition in the heart of the Andes
Adriana Scaletti, Claudio Mazzanti

Iconography of earthquake in the Spanish Empire: different approaches for conservation of architectural heritage
Massimo Visone, Carla Fernández Martínez

Typhoon damage in Edo in 1853: integrating archaeology, climatology and history
Koichi Watanabe, Junpei Hirano, Hiroyuki Ishigami, Masumi Zaiki

Les inondations et leur impact dans les villes de la première modernité : méthodologie pour un répertoire critique de ces phénomènes entre Adour et Rhin
Marc Suttor

Firefighting Awareness of Citizens in Edo: Analyzing Eighteenth-Century Textbooks on Firefighting
Reiji Iwabuchi