Catastrophe reveals the fragility of human society. This course examines a series of phenomena--plague, famine, war, revolution, economic depression etc.--in order to reach an understanding of humanity's imaginings of but also resilience to collective crises. We shall look in particular at how political forces such as empire have historically both generated and resisted global disasters. Material dealing with the especially fraught centuries at the transition between the Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period will be set alongside examples drawn from antiquity as well as our own contemporary era.