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EARTH-SHATTERING EVENTS: Earthquakes, Nations and Civilisation by Andrew Robinson

  • Written by  Chris Fitch
  • Published in Books
EARTH-SHATTERING EVENTS: Earthquakes, Nations and Civilisation by Andrew Robinson
07 Aug
‘It is no exaggeration to say that the sudden destruction of Lisbon on 1 November 1755 exerted an influence on European life and thought in the 18th century as far-reaching as the obliteration of Hiroshima and Nagasaki by atomic bombs in the 20th century,’ writes Robinson

And yet the great 1755 Lisbon earthquake is nowadays almost unknown outside of Portugal. Combined with Britain’s 1750 ‘Year of Earthquakes’ (extremely modest by comparison) the mid-18th century saw a new scientific interest in the study of earthquakes, and sowed the first seeds of seismology, a discipline which later bloomed following the Naples quake of 1857.

As well as unimaginable death tolls, these geological events also had deep and lasting cultural, economic and historical impacts, as did all the case studies included in this chronological history of devastating earthquakes. From Caracas (1812) to Tokyo (1923), Tangshan, China (1976) to Gujarat, India (2001), many pivotal moments in history, whether the fusing of nations, the launching of political careers, the signing of peace treaties, and even declarations of war, can be traced back to earthquakes. Indeed, the world is still waiting upon the long-term impact of the 2011 Fukushima tsunami, amid the various political twists and turns which Japan has taken since then.

Robinson’s final note, that, even with all our modern technology, earthquake prediction remains an impossibly difficult preoccupation, is reflected in the indifference to this threat among most populations living in earthquake-prone parts of the world. Whether or not massive losses of life can be avoided in future quakes could have a highly significant impact on the state of many nations.    

This review was published in the August 2016 edition of Geographical magazine.

Click here to purchase Earth Shattering-Events: Earthquakes, Nations and Civilisation by Andrew Robinson from Amazon

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