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Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions [Paperback]

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer , Donald Theodore Sanders , Robert D. Ballard
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)

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Book Description

November 21, 2004 0691118388 978-0691118383

When the volcano Tambora erupted in Indonesia in 1815, as many as 100,000 people perished as a result of the blast and an ensuing famine caused by the destruction of rice fields on Sumbawa and neighboring islands. Gases and dust particles ejected into the atmosphere changed weather patterns around the world, resulting in the infamous ''year without a summer'' in North America, food riots in Europe, and a widespread cholera epidemic. And the gloomy weather inspired Mary Shelley to write the gothic novel Frankenstein.

This book tells the story of nine such epic volcanic events, explaining the related geology for the general reader and exploring the myriad ways in which the earth's volcanism has affected human history. Zeilinga de Boer and Sanders describe in depth how volcanic activity has had long-lasting effects on societies, cultures, and the environment. After introducing the origins and mechanisms of volcanism, the authors draw on ancient as well as modern accounts--from folklore to poetry and from philosophy to literature. Beginning with the Bronze Age eruption that caused the demise of Minoan Crete, the book tells the human and geological stories of eruptions of such volcanoes as Vesuvius, Krakatau, Mount Pelée, and Tristan da Cunha. Along the way, it shows how volcanism shaped religion in Hawaii, permeated Icelandic mythology and literature, caused widespread population migrations, and spurred scientific discovery.

From the prodigious eruption of Thera more than 3,600 years ago to the relative burp of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the results of volcanism attest to the enduring connections between geology and human destiny.


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Volcanoes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Major Eruptions + Earthquakes in Human History: The Far-Reaching Effects of Seismic Disruptions + The Cycle of Cosmic Catastrophes: How a Stone-Age Comet Changed the Course of World Culture
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

In 1815, Napoleon's armies fell to defeat at Waterloo, a clash that would change the course of world events. Far more Europeans died that year, though, as a result of a volcanic explosion in Indonesia--one cataclysmic eruption among the many that figure in this sidelong view of the Earth's history.

The explosion of Tambora in April 1815, geologists de Boer and Sanders write, sent a plume of volcanic ash high into the planet's atmosphere, bringing on a "nuclear winter" that devastated crops in the northern hemisphere, yielding famine and plague. Moreover, they add, the explosion cast a hazy pall over much of Europe, a gloom that inspired Mary Shelley to write her famed novel, Frankenstein. Another explosion, more than 3,000 years earlier, pulverized the Mediterranean island of Thera, giving rise to the legend of Atlantis and causing whole civilizations to collapse. Still another eruption on the island of Tristan da Cunha, in 1961, "brought [the 20th century] to this most isolated of the earth's inhabited places."

The authors' overview of nature's ability to thwart human intentions makes for fascinating reading, sure to appeal to fans of Perils of a Restless Planet, Surviving Galeras, and other chronicles of the trembling earth. --Gregory McNamee --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

After an introductory chapter on volcanism, this volume by geologists Zeilinga de Boer and Sanders shifts its focus to particular volcanic events (e.g., Vesuvius, Mt. Pel‚e, Krakatau) and areas of volcanic activity (e.g., the Hawaiian Islands and Iceland). The events themselves are described, but the emphasis is on the long-term effects of volcanic activity. The authors make it clear that those effects extend beyond the location of the volcano; there are widespread repercussions that influence everything from literature and religion to population migrations and global weather patterns. The authors have applied their geologic knowledge and experience, along with solid research, to produce an accessible book on volcanoes. It is more readable than either Alwyn Scarth's Vulcan's Fury (LJ 9/1/99) or Haraldur Sigurdsson's Melting the Earth (LJ 5/1/99), both of which are referenced. The authors also make good use of historical sources, such as Charles Morris's Volcano's Deadly Work (1902) and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Last Days of Pompeii (1834). Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Jean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 21, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691118388
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691118383
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (20 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #709,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
29 of 31 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Vibrating String January 26, 2002
Format:Hardcover
For someone who enjoys both history and natural science, "Volcanoes in Humany History" is a happy marriage. It's not exactly a page-turner, because the authors don't try to be too dramatic. They do, however, write simply and clearly, letting the eruptions and their consequences speak for themselves.
The authors' thesis is that each major eruption produces a "vibrating string" of historical effects, ranging from the eruption itself, to the immediate aftermath, to climate change, famine and epidemic, to economic and ecological revival, and finally to cultural effects that can span centuries.
The book covers nine volcanic systems, their eruptions and the resulting historical fallout: The Hawaiian Islands, where the clash between lava and ocean gave rise to a colorful mythology; Thera, whose catastrophic eruption in the Bronze Age may have destroyed Minoan civilization and produced the legend of Atlantis; Mount Vesuvius, whose eruption in 79 AD entombed and preserved the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum; Iceland, whose position above a magma plume and the spreading ocean floor gave rise to horrific eruptions and grim legends; Mount Tambora, the Indonesian volcano that caused the "Year Without a Summer" in 1816; Krakatau, whose tidal waves killed tens of thousand of people in 1883; Mount Pelee, whose pyroclastic flows killed the 30,000 citizens of St. Pierre in an instant in 1902; Tristan da Cunha, whose eruption displaced an idyllic island society; and Mount St. Helens, which in 1980 reminded the Pacific Northwest that "the Giants are only asleep.
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Volcanoes in Human History January 13, 2002
Format:Hardcover
The new book, Volcanoes in Human History by Dr. Jelle DeBoer and Theodore Sanders is a must-have for anyone interested in, or teaching, volcanism. Dr. DeBoer is the Stearns Professor of Earth Science at Wesleyan University (CT), and Mr. Sanders has been a petroleum geologist and science editor. Having taught Honors Earth Science in high school for the last 26 years, I can attest to the relevance of the book. The authors show how nine of the most famous eruptions have affected human history. Each chapter discusses one eruption, in both scientific and historical detail. The science is immediately useful in teaching a high school or introductory college level class. I found new information about all nine eruptions that I will use in my classes, combining it with an AP text. The long lasting effects that these eruptions have had on human history will make the study of volcanoes even more interesting. Relating the earlier eruptions with folklore and mythology shows the effects, other than devastation, that these events had on humanity. The first chapter is a perfect overview of volcanism, its origins and consequences. The following chapters tell us both the geologic causes of these eruptions and their ramifications on current and subsequent generations, be it social, economic, environmental, or artistic. Beginning with the Hawaiian folklore of Pele, the fire goddess, and her battles with her sister Namaka o Kahai, the goddess of the sea, one can see the epic battles as shaping the thinking and lifestyles of the people of Hawaii. When the chapter turned to geology, I learned that there are two parallel sets of active vents. The explanation of a "bow wave" effect, causing lithospheric uplift and faulting is a concept that is sure to be incorporated into my classes. Read more ›
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An exciting and fascinating read December 20, 2001
By A Customer
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
I do quite a bit of research in nonfiction, and find so many science texts that may be full of wonderful information, but are like trying to wade through oatmeal. This book is wonderful! Informative, fascinating--but also a wonderful book to read, even for a lay person. It covered so many dimensions to these disasters--political, social, even literary--that it made me rethink about how we've historically formed our religious and social views. The science/geology is equally well done, but it's 'bigger'than just a science book, and I would think, interesting to everyone.
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Science and Humanity March 13, 2003
Format:Hardcover
This book is written in a clear and engaging style that conveys a scientific understanding of vulcanoloy and the consequences, both positive and negative, of volcanic activity on human life and society.
The authors incorporate a discussion of the physical processes that drive volcanic activity with vivid descriptions of historic eruptions. The book includes nine well-chosen case studies that highight differences in type, intensity and effects of eruption. The authors vividly describe the effects of volcanic eruptions on natural and human environments, human history and human behavior. Throughout the book are highly explanatory yet simple illustrations of the natural processes at work and the specific volcanoes under study.
The authors convey the inspiring power of volcanic acitivity and place natural and human impacts within short and long-term perspectives. This book is clear and informative science coupled with thought provoking history and engaging human interest.
From plate tectonics and environmental impact, to entertaining stories of the effects of volcanic eruptions on art and literature or the creation of mythology, to thought-provoking effects on human life, migration and economic decline - its all here.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Interesting mix of science and history
Perfectly documented and very well written.
It makes us realize we live above a thin and fragile crust moving on top of a furnace, which regularly breaks with sometimes huge... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Frank Chauvallon
5.0 out of 5 stars It's so good!!
It's pretty new when I got it, just a few pencil marks inside but the whole book looks like a new one! I like it!!!
Published 9 months ago by Kathryn
4.0 out of 5 stars Very Intersting and Readable
As a reader of history an enjoyable and interesting read on how volcanos have influenced history. I especialy like the section on Hawaii. Read more
Published 12 months ago by Susan Hodge
5.0 out of 5 stars A Good Read
I am not a scientist by any stretch of the imagination but I found this book to be highly interesting. Read more
Published 16 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars good quality
I bought this product for school. I liked this product, it was shipped quickly and was exactly how it was described in the description.
Published 17 months ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Lots of interesting facts, but too much poetry
I bought this Volcanoes book by de Boer and Sanders at a second-hand store earlier this year, and found it entertaining light reading to get me to sleep at night. Read more
Published 18 months ago by Alan U. Kennington
5.0 out of 5 stars Thorough and Interesting
Well written and easy to follow for someone without a scientific background. Clarified the dynamics of many areas such as plate tectonics, rim of fire, island formation.
Published 20 months ago by Plato
5.0 out of 5 stars marvelous book
The afterword of this book says: In this book we have tried to bring volcanoes to life..give them a human dimension... Read more
Published on February 13, 2010 by Sheila Dreckman
5.0 out of 5 stars Authoritative and Very Accessible
In this fascinating book, the authors do an excellent job of outlining the effects that volcanic eruptions have had on humanity over the millennia all over the globe. Read more
Published on October 16, 2009 by G. Poirier
3.0 out of 5 stars MOTHER NATURE DOESN'T ALWAYS WIN
There is a lot of great stuff here. I particulary enjoyed some of the later chapters on the more recent volcanoes. Read more
Published on April 2, 2009 by Severin Olson
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