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Introduction: Droughts, Floods, and Global Climatic Anomalies in the Indian Ocean World

Part of the Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies book series (IOWS)

Abstract

This introductory chapter sets out the thematic and methodological approaches taken in the remainder of the book. It argues that droughts and floods, triggered by global climatic anomalies associated with, for example, the El Niño Southern Oscillation, the Indian Ocean Dipole, volcanism, and sunspot activity, are crucial to the conception of the Indian Ocean World. It does so by engaging with the Braudelian concept of ‘deep structure.’ In Indian Ocean World Studies, this deep structure is the Indian Ocean monsoon system, which underpinned agriculture and thus the economy until at least c.1900 across the macro-region. But, while Braudel conceived of ‘deep structure’ as an almost unchanging environmental context in his study of the Mediterranean World, in the Indian Ocean World, changes occur regularly owing to the effects of global climatic anomalies on the monsoon system. The potential rapidity of ‘deep structure’ in Indian Ocean World studies, partly visible through an analysis of drought and flood events, represents a core rationale for this book.

Keywords

  • Global Climate
  • Droughts
  • Floods
  • Indian Ocean World
  • Climate History

Thank you to William Gervase Clarence-Smith, Stephen Rockel, Fiona Williamson, and an anonymous reviewer for their comments on earlier versions of this chapter.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    See, for example: Michael Pearson, The Indian Ocean (London: Routledge, 2003), 13–26; K.N. Chaudhuri, Trade and Civilisation in the Indian Ocean: An Economic History from the Rise of Islam to 1750 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1985), 3, 21; Gwyn Campbell, Africa and the Indian Ocean World from Early Times to circa 1900 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), 1–21.

  2. 2.

    See especially: Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II, 3 Vols., trans. Sian Reynolds (New York: Harper & Row, 19723); Fernand Braudel, On History, trans. Sarah Matthews (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1980).

  3. 3.

    See, for example: David Abulafia, The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean (New York: Oxford University press, 2011), xxv–xxvii. For a summary of the critique, see: Peter Burke, The French Historical Revolution: The Annales School, 1929–2014, 2nd ed. (Cambridge: Polity, 2015), 99–108.

  4. 4.

    Burke, French Historical Revolution, 104.

  5. 5.

    Sam White, A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2018), 76–7.

  6. 6.

    Ibid., 70–87; Sam White, The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2011), 140–86.

  7. 7.

    Sunil Amrith, Unruly Waters: How Rains, Rivers, Coasts and Seas have Shaped Asia’s History (New York: Basic Books, 2018), Ch. 1.

  8. 8.

    Sönke Kreft, David Eckstein, and Inga Melchoir, Global Climate Risk Index 2017: Who Suffers Most from Extreme Weather Events? Weather-related Loss Events in 2015 and 1996 to 2015 (Bonn: Germanwatch, 2016).

  9. 9.

    Ibid.

  10. 10.

    For a fairly recent summary of European historiography, see: Gerrit Jasper Schenk, ‘Historical Disaster Research: State of Research, Concepts, Methods, and Case Studies,’ Historical Social Research, 32, 3 (2007), 9–31. For a more recent related study on the IOW, see: Greg Bankoff and Joseph Christensen, ‘Bordering on Danger: An Introduction,’ in Natural Hazards and Peoples in the Indian Ocean World: Bordering on Danger, eds. Greg Bankoff and Joseph Christensen (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2016), 1–30.

  11. 11.

    Chapter by Williamson, this volume.

  12. 12.

    See also: Sugata Bose, A Hundred Horizons: The Indian Ocean in the Age of Global Empire (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2009), 1–2. Here, Bose argues for the unity of the IOW on the basis of collective experience of the tsunami of 26 Dec. 2004.

  13. 13.

    Jason W. Moore, ‘The Capitalocene, Part I: On the Nature and Origins of Our Ecological Crisis,’ Journal of Peasant Studies, 44, 3 (2017), 594–630; Jason W. Moore, ‘The Capitalocene Part II: Accumulation by Appropriation and the Centrality of Unpaid Work/Energy,’ Journal of Peasant Studies, 45, 2 (2018), 237–79.

  14. 14.

    For examples of long-term developments in vulnerability and resilience, see respectively: White, The Climate of Rebellion, 15122; Dagomar Degroot, The Frigid Golden Age: Climate Change, the Little Ice Age, and the Dutch Republic, 1560–1720 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018), 18.

  15. 15.

    For a celebrated example from northeastern Africa, see several chapters in: Douglas H. Johnson and David Anderson, eds. The Ecology of Survival: Case Studies from Northeast African History (London: L. Crook Academic Pub., 1988).

  16. 16.

    For a summary, see: White, A Cold Welcome, 6; Christian Pfister, Sam White, and Franz Mauelshagen, ‘General Introduction: Weather, Climate, and Human History,’ in The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History, eds. Sam White, Christian Pfister, and Franz Mauelshagen (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 3–6.

  17. 17.

    The most famous recent example of such ‘rule breaking’ is probably of normal rainfall in India in 1997–8 during the strongest positive ENSO event of the twentieth century. Richard Grove and George Adamson, El Niño in World History (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2018), 2.

  18. 18.

    Ibid., 5.

  19. 19.

    N.H. Saji, B.N. Goswami, P.N. Vinayachandran, and T. Yamagata, ‘A Dipole Mode in the Tropical Indian Ocean,’ Nature, 401 (1999), 360–3.

  20. 20.

    Campbell, Africa and the IOW, 17.

  21. 21.

    Stefan Brönnimann, ‘Global Warming (1970-Present),’ in The Palgrave Handbook, eds. White, Pfister, and Mauelshagen, 321–8.

  22. 22.

    Shayne McGregor, Myriam Khodri, Nicola Maher, Masamichi Ohba, Francesco S.R. Pausata, and Samantha Stevenson, ‘The Effect of Strong Volcanic Eruptions on ENSO,’ in El Niño Southern Oscillation in a Changing Climate, eds. Michael J. McPhaden, Agus Santoso, and Wenju Cai (Hoboken, NJ: Wiley, 2021), 267–87; Chapter by Ventura, this volume.

  23. 23.

    Kam-biu Liu, Caiming Shen, and Kin-sheun Louie, ‘A 1,000-year History of Typhoon Landfalls in Guangdong, Southern China, Reconstructed from Chinese Historical Documentary Records,’ Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 91, 3 (2001), 461.

  24. 24.

    Y.G. Ham, ‘El Niño Events will Intensify under Global Warming,’ Nature, 564, 7735 (2018), 192–3.

  25. 25.

    Franziska A. Lechleitner, Sebastian F.M. Breitenbach, Kira Rehfeld, Harriet E. Ridley, Yemene Asmerom, Keith M. Prufer, Norbert Marwan, Bedartha Goswami, Douglas J. Kennett, Valorie V. Aquino, Victor Polyak, Gerald H. Haug, Timothy I. Eglinton, and James U.L. Baldini, ‘Tropical Rainfall over the Last Two Millennia: Evidence for a Low-latitude Hydraulic Seesaw,’ Scientific Reports, 7, 45, 809 (2017), 1–9; Campbell, Africa and the IOW, 70, 135.

  26. 26.

    Michael P. Byrne, Angeline G. Pendergrass, Anita D. Rapp, and Kyle R. Wodzicki, ‘Response of the Intertropical Convergence Zone to Climate Change: Location, Width, and Strength,’ Current Climate Change, 4, 4 (2018), 355–70.

  27. 27.

    Thomas Knutson, Suzana J. Camargo, Johnny C.L. Chan, Kerry Emanuel, Chang-Hoi Ho, James Kossin, Mrutyunjay Mohapatra, Masaki Satoh, Masato Sugi, Kevin Walsh, and Liguang Wu, ‘Tropical Cylcones and Climate Change Assessment: Part II: Projected Response to Anthropogenic Warming,’ Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 101, 3 (2020), E303–22.

  28. 28.

    Liu, ‘A 1,000-year History of Typhoon Landfalls,’ 453–64; James B. Elsner and Kam-biu Liu, ‘Examining the ENSO-Typhoon Hypothesis,’ Climate Research, 25 (2003), 43–54; Chapters by Schottenhammer and Warren, this volume.

  29. 29.

    Lan Xia, Hans von Storch, Frauke Feser, and Jian Wu, ‘A Study of Quasi-millennial Extratropical Winter Cyclone Activity over the Southern Hemisphere,’ Climate Dynamics, 47, 7–8 (2016), 2121–38.

  30. 30.

    For an early summary of what this entails, see: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate since 1000, trans. Barbara Bray (Garden City: Doubleday, 1971), 18–22.

  31. 31.

    Sverker Sörlin and Melissa Lane, ‘Historicizing Climate Change—Engaging New Approaches to Climate History,’ Climatic Change, 151, 1 (2018), 1–13.

  32. 32.

    For the European colonisation of the Americas, see: White, A Cold Welcome. For the rise and fall of Chinese dynasties, see: Ka-wai Fan, ‘Climatic Change and Dynastic Cycles in Chinese History,’ Climatic Change, 101, 3–4 (2010), 565–73. For end of the ancient world, see: Campbell, Africa and the IOW, 71–2.

  33. 33.

    This data is available using the World Meteorological Organisation’s climate explorer, made available by the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute. See: https://climexp.knmi.nl/start.cgi?id=someone@somewhere [Accessed: 11 Jan. 2021].

  34. 34.

    See, for example: Sharon E. Nicholson, ‘Historical and Modern Fluctuations of Lakes Tanganyika and Rukwa and their Relationship to Rainfall Variability,’ Climatic Change, 41 (1999), 53–71.

  35. 35.

    For ENSO, see: Joëlle L. Gergis and Anthony M. Fowler, ‘A History of ENSO Events since A.D. 1525: Implications for Future Climate Change,’ Climatic Change, 92 (2009), 343–87.

  36. 36.

    Sharon E. Nicholson, ‘Climatology: Methods,’ Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History (2017) [Accessed: 15 Jan. 2021]; Sharon E. Nicholson, ‘A Semi-quantitative, Regional Precipitation Data Set for Studying African Climates of the Nineteenth Century, Part I. Overview of the Dataset,’ Climatic Change, 50, 3 (2001), 31753. Note, many such data points are not available in the WMO’s climate explorer. As far as I am aware, for example, data in the following source have never been included in an eastern African rainfall dataset: Edward C. Hore, Tanganyika: Eleven Years in central Africa (London: Edward Stanford, 1892), 145; See also: Chapters, by Clarence-Smith and Campbell in this volume.

  37. 37.

    Sarah Kate Raphael, Climate and Political Climate: Environmental Disasters in the Medieval Levant (Leiden: Brill, 2013), 1.

  38. 38.

    Nicholson, ‘Historical and Modern Fluctuations,’ 53–71; Chapters by Gooding and Rockel, this volume.

  39. 39.

    See, for example: Brendan M. Buckley, Kevin J. Anchukaitis, Daniel Penny, Roland Fletcher, Edward R. Cook, Masaki Sano, Le Canh Nam, Aroonrut Wichienkeeo, Ton That Minh, and Truong Mai Hong, ‘Climate as Contributing Factor in the Demise of Angkor Cambodia,’ Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, 107, 15 (2009), 6748–52.

  40. 40.

    Fan, ‘Climatic Change and Dynastic Cycles,’ 568; Chapters by Ebner von Eschenbach and Schottenhammer, this volume.

  41. 41.

    Philip Gooding, ‘Tsetse Flies, ENSO, and Murder: The Church Missionary Society’s Failed East African Ox-cart experiment of 1876–78,’ Africa: Rivista semestrale di studi e ricerche, N.S. 1, 2 (2019), 21–36.

  42. 42.

    Fiona Williamson, ‘The “Cultural Turn” of Climate History: An Emerging Field for Studies of China and East Asia,’ Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change, 11, 3 (2020), 2; Nicholson, ‘Climatology: Methods.’

  43. 43.

    Wenxian Zhang, ‘Dang An: A Brief History of the Chinese Imperial Archives and Its Administration,’ Journal of Archival Organization, 2, 1–2 (2004), 17–38.

  44. 44.

    Fan, ‘Climatic Change and Dynastic Cycles,’ 565–73; Chapters by Ebner von Eschenbach and Schottenhammer, this volume.

  45. 45.

    Philip Gooding, ‘History, Politics, and Culture in Central Tanzania,’ Oxford Research Encyclopedia of African History (2019) [Accessed 15 Jan. 2021], 3; J.B. Webster, ‘Noi! Noi! Famines as an Aid to Interlacustrine Chronology,’ in Chronology, Migration, and Drought in Interlacustrine Africa, ed. J.B. Webster (New York: Africana Pub. Co., 1979), 1–37.

  46. 46.

    Nicholson, ‘A Semi-quantitative, Regional Precipitation Data Set,’ 317–53.

  47. 47.

    Ladurie, Times of Feast, 17.

  48. 48.

    Bankoff and Christensen, ‘Bordering on Danger,’ 6.

  49. 49.

    Williamson, ‘The “Cultural Turn” of Climate History,’ 1–10; Sarah Carson, ‘Atmospheric Happening and Weather Reasoning: Climate History in South Asia,’ History Compass (2020), 113; Ruth Morgan, ‘Climate, Weather, and Water in History,’ WIREs Climate Change, 10, 1 (2019), 1–13.

  50. 50.

    Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño famines and the Making of the Third World (London: Verso, 2002); Deepti Singh, Richard Seager, Benjamin I. Cook, Mark Cane, Mingfang Ting, Edward Cook, and Mike Davis. ‘Climate and the Global Famine of 187678,’ Journal of Climate, 31, 23, (2018), 9445–67; Richard Pankhurst and Douglas H. Johnson, ‘The Great Drought and Famine of 1888–92 in Northeast Africa,’ in The Ecology of Survival, eds. Johnson and Anderson, 47–72; Chapter by Rockel, this volume.

  51. 51.

    Campbell, Africa and the IOW, 248–53.

  52. 52.

    For labour, see: Chapter by Rockel in this volume.

  53. 53.

    Michael Christopher Low, Imperial Mecca: Ottoman Arabia and the Indian Ocean Hajj (New York: Columbia University Press, 2020), 131; Zozan Pehlivan, ‘El Niño and the Nomads: Global Climate, Local Environment, and the Crisis of Pastoralism in Late Ottoman Kurdistan,’ Journal of the Economic and Social History of the Orient, 63, 3 (2020), 318; Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts.

  54. 54.

    Kathryn Dyt, ‘Emperor Tự Đức’s ‘Bad Weather’: Interpreting Natural Disasters in Vietnam, 1847–1883,’ in Natural Hazards and Peoples, eds. Bankoff and Christensen, 169–98; Chapters by Schottenhammer and Ventura, this volume.

  55. 55.

    Martha Chaiklin and Philip Gooding, ‘Introduction: Investigating Animals, Their Products, and Their Trades in the Indian Ocean World,’ in Animal Trade Histories in the Indian Ocean World, eds. Martha Chaiklin, Philip Gooding, and Gwyn Campbell (Cham, CH: Palgrave, 2020), 15.

  56. 56.

    Gooding, ‘Tsetse Flies, ENSO, and Murder,’ 21–36; Campbell, Africa and the IOW; Chapters by Schottenhammer, Chaudhuri, and Warren, this volume.

  57. 57.

    Chapters by Gooding and Williamson, this volume.

  58. 58.

    Indian Ocean World Centre, ‘Appraising Risk’: https://www.appraisingrisk.com [Accessed 12 Jan. 2021]; Bankoff and Christensen, ‘Bordering on Danger,’ 21; Katie Holmes, Andrea Gaynor, and Ruth Morgan, ‘Doing Environmental History in Urgent Times,’ History Australia, 17, 2 (2020), 230–51; George Adamson, ‘‘The Most Horrible of Evils’: Social Responses to Drought and Famine in the Bombay Presidency, 1782–1857,’ in Natural Hazards and Peoples, eds. Bankoff and Christensen, 79.

  59. 59.

    Campbell, Africa and the IOW; Braudel, The Mediterranean; Fernand Braudel, ‘History and the Social Sciences: The Longue Durée,’ trans. Immanuel Wallerstein, Review (Fernand Braudel Center), 32, 2 (2009), 171–203.

  60. 60.

    Geoffrey Parker, War, Climate Change, and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century (New Have, CT: Yale University Press, 2013).

  61. 61.

    Vinita Damodaran, Rob Allan, Astrid E.J. Ogilvie, Gaston R. Demarée, Joëlle Gergis, Takehiko Mikami, Alan Mikhail, Sharon E. Nicholson, Stefan Norrgård, and James Hamilton, ‘The 1780s: Global Climate Anomalies, Floods, Droughts, and Famines,’ in The Palgrave Handbook, eds. White, Pfister, and Mauelshagen, 517–50; Christian Pfister and Sam White, ‘A Year without Summer, 1816,’ in The Palgrave Handbook, eds. White, Pfister, and Mauelshagen, 551–61.

  62. 62.

    Raphael, Climate and Political Climate; Pehlivan, ‘El Niño and the Nomads,’ 316–56; Adamson, ‘‘The Most Horrible of Evils’,’ 79–104; Damodaran, et al., ‘The 1780s,’ 517–50. Many other works by many other scholars could be cited here.

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Gooding, P. (2022). Introduction: Droughts, Floods, and Global Climatic Anomalies in the Indian Ocean World. In: Gooding, P. (eds) Droughts, Floods, and Global Climatic Anomalies in the Indian Ocean World. Palgrave Series in Indian Ocean World Studies. Palgrave Macmillan, Cham. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-98198-3_1

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