Australia's International Neighbourhood

Whole of School Seminar Program Schedule:

Date Name Title Location Time
Thursday, September 21 Prof Anthony Reid (ANU)

Neighbouring the 'Ring of Fire': Future dangers in the light of history


New Law School Lecture Theatre 024 1-2pm
Thursday, October 5 Prof Anthony Capon (USYD) Planetary Health: A new science for exceptional action Madsen Conference Room 449 1-2pm
Thursday, October 19 Joanna Parr (CSIRO) Mineral resources on the seafloor – A new industry for the SW Pacific? Madsen Conference Room 449 1-2pm
Thursday, November 2 Alex Sen Gupta (UNSW) Climate projections for the Tropical Pacific region Madsen Conference Room 449 1-2pm

Neighbouring the 'Ring of Fire': Future dangers in the light of history - Prof Anthony Reid


The bicentenary of the Tembora eruption in April 2015 passed with scarcely a murmur in Australia, obsessed as our leaders were with remembering events in Gallipoli a century earlier. In 1815 the indigenous Australians of the northern coast who heard the strange explosion, saw the sun obscured or experienced a tsunami did not leave us records. Only since the 1990s have the dots of geology, climatology and history been connected to reveal this as the most devastating eruption of the last 500 years, causing global cooling, widespread famines around the world, and the devastation of our neighbours like Bali and Lombok. Other Indonesian eruptions probably caused global cooling and crop failures in the ‘Little Ice Age’ and in 1258. The 20th century, exceptionally ‘mild’ in tectonic terms but full of political conflicts and threats, distorted Australia’s sense of what it should be worried about. Our large military budgets, our debilitating bonds to Washington, are premised on politico-military threats very unlikely to eventuate unless we play our cards disastrously. Natural disasters on the scale of Tembora, however, will happen with a modicum of certainty. What are they likely to mean for Australia, and how ready will we be?


Anthony Reid is a Southeast Asian historian, once again based at the Australian National University after serving as founding Director of the Center for Southeast Asian Studies at UCLA (1999-2002) and of the Asia Research Institute at NUS, Singapore (2002-7). His earlier books include much on Sumatran history and Southeast Asia in the Age of Commerce, c.1450-1680 (2 vols. 1988-93); Imperial Alchemy: Nationalism and political identity in Southeast Asia (2010); and most recently A History of Southeast Asia: Critical Crossroads (2015). Since 2004 he has been increasingly interested in the impact of natural disasters on Southeast Asian history. Examples of this work include ‘Two hitherto unknown Indonesian tsunamis of the seventeenth century: Probabilities and context,’ Journal of Southeast Asian Studies 47 (2016); and ‘Revisiting Southeast Asian History with Geology: Some demographic consequences of a dangerous environment,’ in Natural Hazards and Peoples in the Indian Ocean World: Bordering on Danger, ed. Greg Bankoff and Joe Christenson (2016).