Economic and Natural Disasters since 1900
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Economic and Natural Disasters since 1900

A Comparative History

John Singleton

In the wake of the global financial and Eurozone upheavals this timely book argues that the disaster cycle – a framework normally used in the context of natural disasters – is equally applicable to the analysis of other types of catastrophe. Employing a modified version of the disaster cycle framework to compare and analyse a range of catastrophes in different spheres, the author draws on ideas from a variety of disciplines including economics and economic history, disaster studies, management, and political science. This unique comparative approach presents case studies of several important disasters: Hurricane Katrina, the First World War, the depression of the early 1930s, Welsh coal mining accidents, the deadly effects of smoking tobacco, and the Global Financial Crisis and Eurozone catastrophe of the early twenty first century. The author argues that economists and economic policy makers routinely misuse the term crisis to describe episodes that ought to be called disasters.
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Chapter 8: Conclusion

John Singleton


On 12 August 2015 a warehouse containing hazardous substances blew up in the city of Tianjin, China. Many buildings in the area surrounding the warehouse were destroyed and others were damaged. The preliminary death toll was 44, a number anticipated to rise because 66 critically injured people were in hospital (BBC 2015a). By 20 August, the number of fatalities had risen to 114. Quarrelling over who was to blame, how victims and their families should be compensated, and what should be done to protect the city in the future, was already in full swing (BBC 2015b). Although not as lethal as the Halifax explosion during the First World War, an event that prompted one of the earliest forays into disaster studies (Prince 1920), the Tianjin explosion in principle may be analysed using similar tools. The disaster cycle framework was developed in the 1970s, largely as a guide for those involved in disaster mitigation and response. In the hands of practitioners and disaster management scholars it became known as the disaster management cycle. The disaster cycle is used here with somewhat different ends in mind. In this book the primary goal is to show that disasters in widely different spheres of activity pass through comparable stages.

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