Cautionary Tales – Frankenstein vs Volcano

When the Tambora volcano erupted, the ash spread across the globe; outshine the sun; crop poisoning; and bringing hunger, sickness and death to millions. It may also have helped inspire great scientific and cultural achievements, including the horror masterpiece Frankenstein. How well do we adapt to disaster, and what are the limits of our ability to survive even the worst of circumstances?

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

Sound design and original music by Pascal Weiss. Julia Barton edited the scripts.

Thanks to the Pushkin Industries team, including Mia Lobel, Jacob Weisberg, Heather Fein, John Schnaars, Carly Migliori, Eric Sandler, Emily Rostek, Royston Beserve, Maggie Taylor, Nicole Morana, Danielle Lahan and Maya Koenig.

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Further reading and listening

Wolfgang BehringerTambora and a year without summer

Gillian D’Arcy WoodTambora: the eruption that shook the world

William and Nicholas Klingaman.A year without summer

Robert Evans “Blast from the Past” Smithsonian magazine July 2002

Jill LeporeThe Strange and Tangled Life of FrankensteinNew Yorker 5 Feb 2018

Mary Shelley Frankenstein and Villa Diodati

Nowadays: Year without summer

Mick Hamer Sulfur and Bicycles New scientist January 26, 2005

Michel Acuto, Sean Larcom, Ferdinand Rauch and Tim WillemsCalamity is a great teacher

Bruce SackerdotWhen the saints march

Deriugina, Kavanaugh and Levitt”The economic impact of Hurricane Katrina on its victims

Amy Nakamura and more.”The gift of movement