Ian Seavey


The study of hurricanes and their effects on human society is a relatively new endeavor for academic historians. No published historiographic essay or article exists save a brief section in Stuart B. Schwartz's 2005 article "Hurricanes and the Shaping of the Circum-Caribbean Societies." This is due to the fact that hurricanes are traditionally analyzed in scientific ways that focus on veracity, storm track, wind speed, and storm surge. With the increasing scholarship in the field ofenvironmental history over the past thirty years, more historians now examine how hurricanes significantly impact human communities. The study of hurricanes most assuredly fits into the broader field of environmental history and also into the vibrant corpus of disaster studies but warrants an evaluation as a separate discipline. Historian Matthew Mulcahy writes that, "Because the effects of hurricanes were shaped by larger social, political, and economic circumstances, examining storms can provide a valuable perspective on a society's institutions, attitudes and relationships that are not fully visible during periods of "normality." Similar to wars, hurricanes inflict major disruptions on societies but are typically overlooked as periodic disturbances and not treated as catalysts of change. Therefore, I argue that using hurricanes as an analytical lens, much like war, race, and gender, creates new avenues of research and must be taken seriously as a legitimate field of historical inquiry.

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