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

21 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0691118383
ISBN-10: 0691118388
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Editorial Reviews 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.

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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: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (21 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #892,404 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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33 of 35 people found the following review helpful By William Holmes VINE VOICE on 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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16 of 16 people found the following review helpful By Chris Balsley on 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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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on December 20, 2001
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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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Paul R. Thomas on 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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