Notions of risk have been important to human societies for centuries. Soothsaying, insurance, medical prognostication, financial investment, and gambling all contend with—or try to contain—possible losses. Conversely, good fortune has had its talismans and theorists throughout history. How have different cultures tried to tame chance, or comprehend its whims? To what degree have the practices of commerce relied upon, or alternatively reified, risk? Do technological systems generate hazards they are not capable of controlling? This two-year seminar will bring together scholars working on risk and fortune in historical societies around the world in all time periods, on topics including (but not restricted to) economics, science, religion, industry, statistics, and agriculture.
The Davis Center's goal is to foster research on chosen themes through a weekly seminar, conferences, and workshops. Emphasis is placed on interdisciplinary approaches and subjects that span different geographical areas and periods. The director is Philip Nord.