This talk explores how the underwriting practices that developed with Britain’s imperial expansion in the Indian Ocean critically shaped the very parameters of meteorology in the early 19th century. Analyzing navigational journals and insurance cases fought in the marine courts in India and the admiralty courts in London, the talk reflects on why tropical cyclones, instead of becoming limits to be overcome through scientific forecasting, were instead financialized and made profitable through a brisk and thriving underwriting business. Bridging economic and environmental history, the talk documents how the very modalities and frameworks for assessing climate disturbance emanated out of these webs of insurance and trade that enveloped the globe during this period.
Debjani Bhattacharyya, Professor and Chair for the History of the Anthropocene at the University of Zurich
Free and open to the public; registration required. Columbia University ID holders may attend in person. Non-affiliates may attend virtually. For more information, please visit the event webpage or email [email protected]. Please visit the Heyman’s Center website for directions.
Hosted by the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University.