Debjani Bhattacharyya -Between Opacity and Precision: Underwriting Weather in the British Empire

This talk argues that the coterminous development of financial instruments of risk management and the British imperial expansion in the Indian ocean critically shaped the very parameters of colonial weather knowledge. Analyzing navigational journals and insurance cases fought in the marine courts in India and the admiralty courts in London, the talk argues that tropical cyclones, instead of becoming limits to be overcome simply 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 modalities and frameworks for producing knowledge about climate emanated out of the very webs of insurance and trade that enveloped the globe during this period.




This seminar took place on Wednesday 16 March 2022.