Economy · June 22, 2022

Precautionary Tales – Frankenstein Versus the Volcano

When Mount Tambora erupted, it spewed ash all over the world; obscuring the sun; crop poisoning; and bringing hunger, disease and death to millions of people. It may also have helped inspire great scientific and cultural advances, including the horror masterpiece Frankenstein. How well do we adapt to catastrophe and what are the limits of our ability to withstand even the worst of circumstances?

Warningary Tales was written by me, Tim Harford, with Andrew Wright. It is produced by Ryan Dilley, with support from Courtney Guarino and Emily Vaughn.

The original sound design and music are the work of Pascal Wyse. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the Pushkin Industries team, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fain, Jon Schnaars, Carly Miglior, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morana, Daniella Lakhan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

Wolfgang Behringer “Tambora and the year without summer”

Gillian D’Arcy Wood “Tambora: The Eruption That Shook the World”

William and Nicholas Klingaman “The year without summer”

Robert Evans “A blast from the past” Smithsonian magazine July 2002

Jill Lepore “The Strange and Twisted Life of ‘Frankenstein'” The New Yorker 5th February 2018

Mary Shelley, Frankenstein and the Villa Diodati

In our time: the year without summer

Mick Hamer “Sulfur and bicycles” New scientist January 26, 2005

Michele Acuto, Shaun Larcom, Ferdinand Rauch and Tim Willems “Calamity is an excellent teacher”

Bruce Sacerdote “When the saints go on the march”

Deryugina, Kawano and Levitt “The economic impact of Hurricane Katrina on its victims”

Emi Nakamura et al “The gift of moving”