Earth-Shattering Events - Earthquakes, Nations and Civilization

Author(s): Andrew Robinson

History | Staff Picks

"A truly welcome and refreshing study that puts earthquake impact on history into a proper perspective" --Amos Nur, Emeritus Professor of Geophysics, Stanford University, California, and author of Apocalypse: Earthquakes, Archaeology, and the Wrath of God. Since antiquity, on every continent, human beings in search of attractive landscapes and economic prosperity have made a Faustian bargain with the risk of devastation by an earthquake. Today, around half of the world's largest cities - as many as sixty - lie in areas of major seismic activity. Many, such as Lisbon, Naples, San Francisco, Tehran and Tokyo, have been severely damaged or destroyed by earthquakes in the past. But throughout history, starting with ancient Jericho, Rome and Sparta, cities have proved to be extraordinarily resilient: only one, Port Royal in the Caribbean, was abandoned after an earthquake. Earth-Shattering Events seeks to understand exactly how humans and earthquakes have interacted, not only in the short term but also in the long perspective of history. In some cases, physical devastation has been followed by decline. But in others, the political and economic reverberations of earthquake disasters have presented opportunities for renewal. After its wholesale destruction in 1906, San Francisco went on to flourish, eventually giving birth to the high-tech industrial area on the San Andreas fault known as Silicon Valley. An earthquake in Caracas in 1812 triggered the creation of new nations in the liberation of South America from Spanish rule. Another in Tangshan in 1976 catalysed the transformation of China into the world's second largest economy. The growth of the scientific study of earthquakes is woven into this far-reaching history. It began with a series of earthquakes in England in 1750. Today, seismologists can monitor the vibration of the planet second by second and the movement of tectonic plates millimetre by millimetre. Yet, even in the 21st century, great earthquakes are still essentially 'acts of God', striking with much less warning than volcanoes, floods, hurricanes and even tornadoes and tsunamis.

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Humans are always subjected to the whims and unpredictable nature of the Earth on which we were planted. In our lives, there is so much, and so little that we are in control over. Andrew Robin’s historical work Earth Shattering Events: Earthquakes, Nations, and Civilisation explores the ways in which humans interact with one of this unavoidable realities: earthquakes. Robinson explores the trajectory of human existence, and examines the ways in which various civilisations have dealt with natural disasters economically, politically and emotionally. 


An incredibly interesting read that bridges the gap that is sometimes present between human beings and the space we occupy. - The Book Grocer, Taylor.

Delightfully un-academic but thoughtfully structured Thought-provoking."

General Fields

  • : 9780500518595
  • : Thames & Hudson, Limited
  • : Thames & Hudson Ltd
  • : August 2016
  • : books

Special Fields

  • : Andrew Robinson
  • : Hardback
  • : 256