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Earthquakes in Human History:
The Far-Reaching Effects of Seismic Disruptions
Jelle Zeilinga de Boer & Donald Theodore Sanders

One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2005

Paperback | 2007 | $26.95 / £18.95 | ISBN: 9780691127866
304 pp. | 6 x 9 | 39 halftones. 5 line illus. 2 tables. | Shopping Cart

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On November 1, 1755--All Saints' Day--a massive earthquake struck Europe's Iberian Peninsula and destroyed the city of Lisbon. Churches collapsed upon thousands of worshippers celebrating the holy day. Earthquakes in Human History tells the story of that calamity and other epic earthquakes. The authors, Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders, recapture the power of their previous book, Volcanoes in Human History. They vividly explain the geological processes responsible for earthquakes, and they describe how these events have had long-lasting aftereffects on human societies and cultures. Their accounts are enlivened with quotations from contemporary literature and from later reports.

In the chaos following the Lisbon quake, government and church leaders vied for control. The Marquês de Pombal rose to power and became a virtual dictator. As a result, the Roman Catholic Jesuit Order lost much of its influence in Portugal. Voltaire wrote his satirical work Candide to refute the philosophy of "optimism," the belief that God had created a perfect world. And the 1755 earthquake sparked the search for a scientific understanding of natural disasters.

Ranging from an examination of temblors mentioned in the Bible, to a richly detailed account of the 1906 catastrophe in San Francisco, to Japan's Great Kanto Earthquake of 1923, to the Peruvian earthquake in 1970 (the Western Hemisphere's greatest natural disaster), this book is an unequaled testament to a natural phenomenon that can be not only terrifying but also threatening to humankind's fragile existence, always at risk because of destructive powers beyond our control.

Review:

"A splendid geographical and cultural survey of how, over the centuries, the unquiet Earth has altered our sense of nature and ourselves."--Russell Seitz, Wall Street Journal

"The effects of tremors lasting only minutes often dwarf those of almost all other natural disasters, leaving scars on the landscape and the population that can last for centuries. Geologist Jelle Zeilinga de Boer and science writer Donald Theodore Sanders drive that point home with well-chosen evidence from notable seismic upheavals of the past. . . . [T]he best parts of the book are the stories, big and small, of people and institutions affected by the great seismic disruptions."--Laurence A. Marschall, Natural History

"The authors provide little-known facts and insights on geologic processes and the effects of these natural disasters on the course of human history. . . . Because earthquakes are an expression of a living and evolving planet Earth, knowledge of their influence on a living and evolving human population is essential. This book goes a long way toward erasing that knowledge deficit."--Choice

"A terrifying but excellent study of human history in relation to earthquakes, the tsunamis earthquakes can cause, and the consuming fires that often follow and take the greatest tolls. . . . [A] great read: The authors weave in high-profile literature, heavy doses of exciting political history and some baseline geology for understanding, plus a bunch of tidbits that are not standard fare even for the most geology-centric reader."--Victoria Bruce, The Globe and Mail

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