Synopses & Reviews
A riveting history of how the cataclysmic Lisbon earthquake shook the religious and intellectual foundations of Enlightenment Europe
Along with the volcanic destruction of Pompeii and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Lisbon quake of 1755 is one of the most destructive natural disasters ever recorded. After being jolted by a massive quake, Lisbon was then pounded by a succession of tidal waves, and finally reduced to ash by a fire that raged for five straight days.
In The Last Day, Nicholas Shrady provides not only a vivid account of this horrific disaster but also a stimulating survey of the many shock waves it sent throughout Western civilization. When news of the quake spread, it inspired both a lurid fascination in the popular imagination of Europe and an intellectual debate about the natural world and Godas place in human affairs. Voltaire, Alexander Pope, Immanuel Kant, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, among other eminent figures, took up the disaster as a sort of cause cA(c)lA]bre and a vehicle to express Enlightenment ideas. More practically, the Lisbon quake led to the first concerted effort at disaster control, modern urban planning, and the birth of seismology. The Last Day is popular history writing at its best and will appeal to readers of Simon Winchesteras Krakatoa and A Crack in the Edge of the World,
"Admirable and perfectly paced."
- The New York Sun
"Shrady's account will find the same ready audience that delight's not only in tales of catastrophes but in smart, stylishly written history."
Shrady provides not only a vivid account of the Lisbon earthquake of 1755, but also a stimulating survey of the many shock waves it sent throughout Western civilization.
The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 was no run-of-the-mill misfortune-it was a watershed moment that shook the pillars of an inveterate social order and sent reverberations throughout the Western world. Earth, water, wind, and fire all conspired to produce a hellish catastrophe that lasted for a full five days and left Lisbon thoroughly annihilated. Nicholas Shrady's unique account of this first modern disaster and its aftereffects successfully articulates the outcome of the earthquake-the eighteenth-century equivalent of a mass media frenzy giving rise to a host of other fascinating developments, such as disaster preparedness, landmark social reform, urban planning, and the birth of seismology.
About the Author
Nicholas Shrady is a writer and journalist whose books include Sacred Roads: Adventures from the Pilgrimage Trail and Tilt: A Skewed History of the Tower of Pisa. He has written for Architectural Digest, Travel & Leisure, Forbes, and The New York Times Book Review.