chapter  1
14 Pages


Milk is spilt, a car crashes, a woman unintentionally becomes pregnant, a small boy wets himself. The range of events that we describe as accidents is vast and disparate, including the serendipitous chance meeting or inter­ esting discovery, but more usually some kind of misfortune, often trivial but occasionally tragic. Indeed, the word “accident” covers a seemingly infinite range of possible misfortunes that, as we say, will happen and have to be expected from time to time. Such misfortunes are perhaps universal to human society, but ways of classifying, understanding and managing them clearly are not. This book is an attempt to examine accidents socio­ logically, in order to understand how some misfortunes have become clas­ sified specifically as “accidents” in the late twentieth century.