This paper explores the argument that small island states and sub-national jurisdictions can especially benefit from a broader understanding of what data can be and it illustrates how historical narrative and descriptive data from archives can act as a valuable source of knowledge on disasters and climate, both past, and present. Yet, in order to use (and not misuse) these archival sources, it must first be appreciated how islands and their histories have previously been engaged with, and how certain narratives about small islands may have shaped how historical data is engaged with (or not). This study critically analyses current approaches when engaging with island histories, with particular consideration of the legacy of colonisation and imperialism, and how this is manifested in historical data and methods. Finally, the study explores how island histories can educate and inform, locally and globally, realising connections between communities across time and space.
This paper finds that that narrative and descriptive archival historical data is an invaluable source for understanding island vulnerability and resilience. Without such data, the understanding, and efforts to address contemporary challenges, are likely to be flawed. However, the researchers caution against elevating any one type of data or disciplinary lens. By combining such data with multiple types of data, both literate and non-literate, a deeper historical and long-term understanding of disaster risks and climate change in small island states and sub-national island jurisdictions can be reached.