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Philippine typhoons, sources and the historian

Warren, J.F.ORCID: 0000-0003-0055-6730 (2015) Philippine typhoons, sources and the historian. Water History, 7 (2). pp. 213-231.

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The pre-requisite for investigating the impacts of cyclonic storms and climatic change in Philippine history is adequate meteorological records and information on how weather and climate fluctuate and change in the Philippines across time. Reconstructing the history of the typhoon’s impacts, climate variability and human-environment interactions on Philippine society and culture is difficult. The meteorological records to attempt such a reconstruction for the pre-instrument era are fragmentary. For the period prior to 1880, we have to rely on ‘proxy records’ to reconstruct the record of the weather and cyclonic storms over long periods, for example the records produced by provincial parish priests from as early as the seventeenth century, and the early histories and travel accounts of the Spanish friars. In order to trace climatic patterns and the impacts of typhoons, floods and storm surges in the era of pre-instrument observation, the historian must start with the Spanish records held in various civil and ecclesiastical archives and repositories in Spain and the Philippines. In the records of the Archivo General de Indias, Archivo Historico Nacional, Museo Naval, and the archives of the various religious orders—especially the Jesuits, given their unique role in pioneering the science of meteorology in the Philippines—can be found information in documents, letters and books about typhoons, and the colonization process . The catalogues, records and books held in the Philippine National Archive also contain invaluable information to help explain the long-term impacts of cyclonic storms and the ecological disadvantages confronting various typhoon-prone areas in the archipelago up until the end of the nineteenth century. Most importantly for the study of typhoons and human-environment interaction in the Philippines under American rule, the Bureau of Insular Affairs was the knowledge bank, regarding physical, cultural and geographical information about the archipelago. Under the auspices of the government, its staff archived, compiled and printed official data to supply the growing public demand for knowledge about the islands. As part of its range of activities the BIA undertook studies of important issues about the Philippines on behalf of the business sector and distributed thousands of printed documents relating to trade, agriculture, and, most importantly, aspects of the work of the Weather Bureau. There also exists an important oral and visual record of Philippine typhoons and detailed accounts of their impacts in nineteenth and twentieth century newspapers.

Item Type: Journal Article
Murdoch Affiliation(s): Asia Research Centre
Publisher: Springer Netherlands
Copyright: © 2015 Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht
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