Chapter 1: The disaster cycle
There are disasters almost everywhere we look. England’s disappointing performance at the 2015 Cricket World Cup was depicted as a ‘disaster’ in the British media. Team management promised to ‘look at the data’ in an effort to discover what had gone so badly wrong (Ashdown 2015). Few of us, however, would regard the failure of a cricket team as a disaster when set alongside an earthquake that kills 50 000, an underground explosion that results in the death of many coal miners, or an economic depression such as in the early 1930s. Whether or not an adverse event qualifies as a disaster depends on its scale and the perspective of the observer. Australians, for example, do not regard England’s cricketing fiascos as disasters, even from a sporting angle. The purpose of this book is to investigate the extent to which large-scale disasters in different spheres of human activity, as well as the people and organizations caught up in them, follow the same or at least a similar script. The investigative framework is provided by the ‘disaster cycle’, a device that was developed by social scientists and disaster management practitioners in the twentieth century. Every scholar comes to their subject from a certain background and perspective, and my origins are in economic and business history. The analysis of disasters has not been a major theme in economic or business history, and the disaster cycle is relatively unknown in those disciplines.