Fiona Williamson

Fiona Williamson
Singapore Management University | smu

PhD

About

69
Publications
8,057
Reads
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308
Citations
Introduction
I am an historian with an interest in the history of the environment and climate. My current research focuses on colonial cities (especially Singapore and Hong Kong) extreme weather and disasters in history, and the history of meteorology.
Additional affiliations
July 2018 - present
Singapore Management University
Position
  • Professor (Assistant)
June 2016 - present
National University of Singapore
Position
  • Research Associate
January 2015 - present
United Nations University
Position
  • Fellow

Publications

Publications (69)
Chapter
This chapter brings a climatic perspective to the study of Singaporean history by exploring the impacts of the strong El Niño inspired droughts of 1877, 1902 and 1911. The narrative focuses on unpacking the nexus of nature-inspired versus human-induced vulnerability to drought within the contexts of colonial urbanisation and looks at the short-to m...
Article
This article investigates the contribution made by indigenous employees to the work of the Hong Kong Observatory from its inception and into the early twentieth century. As has so often been the case in Western histories of science, the significance of indigenous workers and of women in the Hong Kong Observatory has been obscured by the stories of...
Article
Full-text available
In comparison to the Northern Hemisphere, especially Europe and North America, there is a scarcity of information regarding the historic weather and climate of Southeast Asia and the Southern Hemisphere in general. The reasons for this are both historic and political, yet that does not mean that such data do not exist. Much of the early instrumenta...
Article
This curated special issue asks how history can be used as a lens into disaster and disaster management. It takes as its premise the idea that approaches from different disciplines – including the humanities and social sciences – can offer new perspectives on understanding disaster, managing disaster and disaster risk.
Article
The paper explore the idea that flood-related mortality from river over-bank flows in the SE Asian region could be reduced by incorporating evidence from the past to foster a better understanding of the realm of plausible flood regimes, and hopefully guide flood hazard management practices in the future.
Preprint
Full-text available
In comparison to the Northern Hemisphere, especially Europe and North America, there is a paucity of information regarding the historic weather and climate of Southeast Asia and the Southern Hemisphere in general. The reasons for this are both historic and political, yet that does not mean that such data do not exist. Much of the early instrumental...
Article
Full-text available
In 1877, the major towns of the Straits Settlements-Singapore, George Town, Penang Island and Malacca-suffered a drought of exceptional magnitude. The drought's natural instigator was the El Niño phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation, a climatic phenomenon then not understood by contemporary observers. The 1877 event has been explored in some d...
Article
Full-text available
The last few years have seen a surge of scholarly interest in how cultures have been influenced by climate, climatic changes, and extremes of weather. This “cultural turn” of climate history draws from the archives of society, rather than the archives of nature, and is heavily influenced by interpretative and methodological frameworks drawn from th...
Article
Environmental historians have often been drawn to disasters. They have unearthed the often-forgotten stories of erupting volcanoes, raging rivers and rainless skies, and in so doing have reminded their colleagues from more anthropocentric disciplines that the societies, economies and cultures they study are part of broader physical systems. In addi...
Article
Full-text available
A global inventory of early instrumental meteorological measurements is compiled that comprises thousands of mostly nondigitized series, pointing to the potential of weather data rescue.
Presentation
Talk hosted by Heidelberg Centre for the Environment on behalf of CRIAS: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hFLGgKSTQDk&feature=youtu.be
Article
Full-text available
Instrumental meteorological measurements from periods prior to the start of national weather services are designated “early instrumental data.” They have played an important role in climate research as they allow daily to decadal variability and changes of temperature, pressure, and precipitation, including extremes, to be addressed. Early instrume...
Article
Full-text available
In this study, rainfall data pre-dating the start of official MacRitchie Reservoir (Singapore) observations (1879), are compiled from various locations across the island. By making use of the contemporary AWS network, the current spatial relationships of rainfall between the historical sites and the current MacRitchie site are evaluated. Historical...
Article
Singapore in the 1950s was a deeply divided society. Struggling to recover from the hardships of the Second World War and fighting an internal battle that the British government termed an ‘emergency’, it was a time of hardship, tension, and anxiety. In the midst of this crisis, Singapore's inhabitants continued to manage the natural elements of the...
Article
This article explores the development of public health infrastructure in George Town, Penang, before the 1930s. It argues that the extreme weather of the tropical climate led to a unique set of health challenges for George Town's administrators, as the town grew from a small British base to a multi-cultural and thriving port. Weather and public hea...
Article
Full-text available
The final published version of this manuscript will replace the preliminary version. If you would like to cite this EOR in a separate work, please use the following full citation: Williamson, F., and Coauthors, 2018: Collating historic weather observations for the East Asian region: challenges, solutions and reanalyses. Adv. Atmos. Sci., 35, https:...
Article
This paper explores the conceptualisation of «uncertainty» in late nineteenth- century meteorological thought. By investigating the story of meteorological forecasting in nineteenth and early twentieth century Hong Kong, it considers the changing ways in which forecasting was judged historically. In the early nineteenth century forecasting the weat...
Chapter
Full-text available
Exploring the history of major floods, governmental responses, and contemporaneous scientific research, this chapter will argue that by understanding context and precedent in dealing with past urban disasters, we can better understand and produce efficient approaches to disaster management in the future. Just as the disasters that face cities today...
Technical Report
THIS PROJECT’S GOAL has been to work with Southeast Asian institutions, archives, agencies and National Meteorological Services (NMS) to build capacities for improving and extending historical instrumental, documentary and palaeo databases of Southeast Asian weather and climate. The work plan comprised research into and cataloging sources of histor...
Research
Full-text available
With thanks to Roger Turner at Picturingmeteorology.com for posting. https://picturingmeteorology.com/home/2017/3/15/pow-meteorology-hong-kong-1941-45
Article
Full-text available
This commentary discusses a recent workshop designed to explore the extant historic instrumental record of weather observations for China, East Asia and the China Seas region; to uncover new sources of observations and, to work on joint initiatives for their recovery and inclusion in open access datasets. The workshop was funded by UK Newton Fund's...
Article
Full-text available
This paper is an historical case study of a major flood that occurred in British Malaya in 1926. It focuses on two key points. First, that the magnitude and subsequent impacts of the flood were exacerbated by contemporary industrial, agricultural, and hydraulic practices. Second, that this event pushed the British colonial government toward improvi...
Article
Full-text available
This paper argues that more work is needed to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaborations by scholars across the physical sciences and humanities to improve Data Rescue Activities (DARE). Debate over the scale and potential impact of anthropogenic global warming is one of the dominant narratives of the twenty-first century. Predicting future clima...
Article
http://www.environmentandsociety.org/arcadia/milestone-road-independence-singapores-catastrophic-1954-floods
Article
Full-text available
The cover image, by Rob Allan et al., is based on the Opinion Towards integrated historical climate research: the example of ACRE (Atmospheric Circulation Reconstructions over the Earth), DOI: 10.1002/wcc.379.
Research
Full-text available
Climate change has become a key environmental narrative of the 21st century. However, emphasis on the science of climate change has overshadowed studies focusing on human interpretations of climate history, of adaptation and resil- ience, and of explorations of the institutions and cultural coping strategies that may have helped people adapt to cli...
Article
Full-text available
Climate change has become a key environmental narrative of the 21st century. However, emphasis on the science of climate change has overshadowed studies focusing on human interpretations of climate history, of adaptation and resilience, and of explorations of the institutions and cultural coping strategies that may have helped people adapt to clima...
Article
Focussing on the practice of public engagement and the teaching of history in higher education, this article will argue that public engagement is a welcome platform for sustaining humanities education through the economic stagnation and educational changes that have impacted Europe in the early 21st century. However, effective public engagement is...
Article
This article explores meteorological interest and experimentation in the early history of the Straits Settlements. It centres on the establishment of an observatory in 1840s Singapore and examines the channels that linked the observatory to a global community of scientists, colonial officers and a reading public. It will argue that, although the va...
Article
This article tells the story of a contested provincial election for sheriff which took place in Norwich during 1627. In light of recent scholarly critiques of studies that frame the early-modern period in terms of binary opposites, this article demonstrates that 1620s political culture is hard to define in such stark terms. Through a close reading...
Article
Full-text available
The value of historic observational weather data for reconstructing long-term climate patterns and the detailed analysis of extreme weather events has long been recognized (Le Roy Ladurie, 1972; Lamb, 1977). In some regions however, observational data has not been kept regularly over time, or its preservation and archiving has not been considered a...
Article
This article explores some of the most notorious popular political events of early-seventeenth century Norwich, with an eye to understanding these events as specific to the political culture of the middling sorts, especially the freemen electorate. Popular politics was not of course the sole preserve of the middling sorts, but it is interesting how...
Book
This is a book about seventeenth-century Norwich and its inhabitants. At its core are the interconnected themes of social topographies and the relationships between urban inhabitants and their environment. Cityscapes were, and are, shaped and given meaning during the practice of people's lived experiences. In return, those same urban places lend hu...
Article
http://ehq.sagepub.com/content/44/4/703.full.pdf+html
Book
The interaction of women with the legal system of England and Wales is a neglected topic of late medieval and early modern historiography. Based on close readings of both public and private documents – court records, churchwarden accounts, depositions, diaries, letters and pamphlets – this collection of essays presents the largely untold story of n...
Article
Full-text available
The current assessment that twentieth-century global temperature change is unusual in the context of the last thousand years relies on estimates of temperature changes from natural proxies (tree-rings, ice-cores, etc.) and climate model simulations. Confidence in such estimates is limited by difficulties in calibrating the proxies and systematic di...
Article
Michael McKeon’s The Secret History of Domesticity is an important contribution to cultural and literary history, exploring how concepts of public and private evolved. His quest to uncover the ‘division of knowledge’ takes the reader on a journey through the low and high culture of literary genre, the history of print, art, architecture, entertainm...
Article
Influenced by interdisciplinary studies and the 'spatial turn' in social history, this article explores the relationship between space and the construction of gender identity amongst the poor to middling sorts of seventeenth-century Norwich. To this end I have considered gendered interaction in different 'types' of space: domestic, private space, '...
Article
Full-text available
The current assessment that twentieth-century global temperature change is unusual in the context of the last thousand years relies on estimates of temperature changes from natural proxies (tree-rings, ice-cores etc.) and climate model simulations. Confidence in such estimates is limited by difficulties in calibrating the proxies and systematic dif...

Network

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Projects

Projects (2)
Project
ACRE is an international initiative which facilitates the research and recovery of historical marine and terrestrial instrumental weather observations. The project has several regional foci including ACRE China which was launched formally in November 2012 at the China Meteorological Administration, Beijing. As an integral part of WP1 within the Climate Science for Service Partnership China, ACRE China is tasked to recover, image and digitise historical daily to sub-daily terrestrial and marine data. Data comes from stations in China and surrounding countries and from the log books of ships in the region. Project collaborators include the Beijing Climate Centre (BCC); National Marine Data and Information Service (NMDIS), China University of Geosciences (CUG) (Wuhan), and Hong Kong Observatory (HKO). The project lead is Prof Guoyu Ren (CMA). For more info see: http://www.met-acre.net/ or https://www.facebook.com/metacre/
Project
ACRE is an international initiative which facilitates the research and recovery of historical marine and terrestrial instrumental weather observations. The project has several regional foci including ACRE Southeast Asia and ACRE China. The primary goal of this regional foci is to build both capabilities and capacities within Southeast Asian institutions, agencies and National Meteorological Services to improve and extend historical instrumental, documentary and paleo databases of SE Asian weather/climate. The databases will contribute to the generation of high-quality, high-resolution historical weather reconstructions (reanalyses). These new baselines will allow scientists and policy makers across the region to address weather/climate extremes, impacts and risks in ways and over time spans not previously possible. For more info see: http://www.met-acre.net/ or https://www.facebook.com/metacre/