From Publishers Weekly
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.
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One of Choice's Outstanding Academic Titles for 2005
"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
"Jelle Zelinga de Boer and Donald Theodore Sanders relate fascinating historical accounts illustrating how earthquakes have repeatedly served as catalysts for significant, long-term changes in social, political, military, religious, economic, and other conditions. . . . A major strength of [their] writing is their talent for clearly and succinctly delivering complex scientific theory to the lay reader. . . . de Boer's and Sanders' work helps ensure that disaster risk receives the attention it most certainly warrants."--Shawn Fenn, Journal of Homeland Security and Emergency Management
"The book is well written, in a clear crisp style, without unnecessary jargon. The geological aspects are admirably well informed and accurate. . . . This is an admirable book. It is easily the most scholarly and well-informed discussion of the broader historical contexts of these earthquakes that I have read, and the geological accounts of what happened are well explained."--James Jackson, Geological Magazine
"I recommend it to any geophysicist interested in the human impact of earthquakes, and indeed, as a result of reading it I am keen to search out previous work by the authors which studies the sociological effects of volcanic eruptions."--John Brittan, Leading Edge
"The book is written with a vivid and easily digested narrative style that helps the amateur reader to assimilate a bit of basic geological knowledge. . . . [T]he geology-centered reader will better understand the far-reaching effects of earthquakes for different aspects of the history of civilization."--Marek Lewandowski, Pure and Applied Geophysics