Prophecy and prediction: Forecasting drought and famine in British India and the Australian colonies

Ruth Morgan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

4 Citations (Scopus)


In British India and the Australian colonies, drought and famine, as well as other hazards, were challenges facing local and metropolitan meteorologists. In this article, I examine the colonial and environmental contexts that animated the studies of both Indian and Australian scientists and the meteorological futures they sought to realise. Colonial scientists in India and Australia were eager to develop means of seasonal weather prediction that could aid the advancement of Empire underway in their respective continents. As this article shows, meteorologists in both places understood that the climate knowledge emerging on each side of the east Indian Ocean could be mutually beneficial in related ways. Their vast continental scales, imperial bonds, geographic orientation and telegraphic connection made them worthy partners in colonial efforts to discern and predict weather patterns, while contributing to the wider field of meteorological science. The threat to colonial security and prosperity that drought and famine posed helped to thicken the bonds between these reaches of the empire, as their meteorologists sought to impose their territorial logic of the skies above.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)95-132
Number of pages38
JournalGlobal Environment
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Australian history
  • History of meteorology
  • Imperial environmental history
  • Indian history

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