Disaster or everyday risk? Perceiving, managing and memorizing floods in medieval Central Europe

Rohr, Christian (3 December 2016). Disaster or everyday risk? Perceiving, managing and memorizing floods in medieval Central Europe (Unpublished). In: Waiting for the End of the World: The Archaeology of Risk and its Perception in the Middle Ages. Oxford. 02.-04.12.2016.

Full text not available from this repository. (Request a copy)

The landscape and the major settling places in Central Europe are dominated by the catchments of large rivers, such as the Danube, Rhine or Rhone Rivers. They all rise from the inner Alps or the foothills of the Alps. From pre-Roman times onwards people settled along those rivers, because they profited much from the waterways as a means of transport and trade, and from hydro-power used for different crafts. However, they also had to face the risk of floods and tried to adapt as best as possible. This paper argues that pre-modern societies, such as those “flood-risk societies” in the Middle Ages, rather perceived and memorized floods and similar natural hazards as an everyday risk and only in some exclusive cases as a disaster. Disaster perception mostly depends of a bundle of contributing factors: (a) the helplessness of the people trying to cope with the damage, with the available means; (b) the inability of individuals to explain and understand the event; (c) the material and personal suffering; (d) the unexpectedness of the event, which depends on how prepared a society is for one-time or recurrent threats; (e) whether there is a series of natural hazards within a short period of time, which can raise the vulnerability of the afflicted people; (f) the symbolic connotations and patterns of interpretation, such as connections to natural disasters described in the Bible; and (g) the general predicament, such as the simultaneous economic, religious and climatic crises during the sixteenth century in Europe. Based on narrative and administrational sources, and on architectural evidence It will be shown that people in pre-modern Central Europe had been prepared and adapted to this permanent flood risk and did not need any religious or supra-natural explanations. In this way, even a disastrous flood had not been interpreted as a divine punishment or even a harbinger of the apocalypse.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)

Division/Institute:

06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History
10 Strategic Research Centers > Oeschger Centre for Climate Change Research (OCCR)
06 Faculty of Humanities > Department of History and Archaeology > Institute of History > Economic, Social and Environmental History

UniBE Contributor:

Rohr, Christian

Subjects:

900 History
900 History > 940 History of Europe

Language:

English

Submitter:

Christian Rohr

Date Deposited:

22 Dec 2016 11:08

Last Modified:

22 Dec 2016 11:08

Uncontrolled Keywords:

disaster perception, disaster memory, floods, Austria, Middle Ages, Early Modern Times

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/91198

Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback