EARTHQUAKES IN HUMAN HISTORY: The Far-Reaching Effects of Seismic Disruptions

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer, Author, Jelle Zeilinga Boer, Author, Donald Theodore Sanders, Author . Princeton Univ. $24.95 (304p) ISBN 978-0-691-05070-6

Weekend scholars and disaster fans will find the physical and the social sciences blend interestingly, if sometimes a bit awkwardly, in this study of earthquakes across the centuries. As in their previous book, Volcanoes in Human History , coauthors de Boer and Sanders consider the repercussions of natural disasters on everything from literature and religion to politics and science. Early chapters consider biblical references to a quaking earth ("the coincidence of [Joshua's] easy passage across the Jordan and the easy conquest of Jericho suggests the aftermath of a major earthquake") and show how 14th- and 18th-century earthquakes in England and Portugal were taken as signs from God (encouraged by fiery preacher John Wesley, Londoners who had suffered through several small quakes in 1750 saw Portugal's disastrous 1755 quake as yet another warning of God's displeasure with sinners). A discussion of the New Madrid, Mo., quake of 1811 notes that while it was one of the strongest ever recorded in North America (it was followed by 1,874 aftershocks), it remains relatively unknown because the region was little populated. Modern-era quakes in San Francisco (1906), Kanto, Japan (1923), Peru (1970) and Nicaragua (1972) round out the book; the links between seismic aftermath and revolutionary ferment in the latter two countries nicely pinpoint the significant interplay between planetary and sociopolitical upheaval. Illus. (Jan.)

Reviewed on: 11/15/2004
Release date: 12/01/2004
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 278 pages - 978-0-691-12786-6
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