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210 × 148 × 16 mm
208 pages
93 illustrations, 48 in colour
01 Oct 2012

Earthquake Nature and Culture Andrew Robinson

Los Angeles and Tokyo, Istanbul and Beijing, Lima and Cairo are among the more than 60 large cities at definite risk from an earthquake. Although European cities seem less vulnerable, devastating earthquakes have hit Athens, Bucharest, Lisbon, Madrid, Rome and Naples, among others, over the past three centuries. Even London experienced a shock in 1884 that stopped MPs in the Houses of Parliament in their tracks.

This book describes two millennia of major earthquakes and their effects on societies around the world; the ways in which cultures have mythologized earthquakes through religion, the arts and popular culture; and the science of measuring, understanding and trying to predict earthquakes. According to Charles Darwin, a great earthquake in Chile in 1835 was the single most interesting event of his entire five-year journey around the globe on HMS Beagle.

Despite advances in both science and engineering, and improved disaster preparedness, earthquakes continue to cause immense loss of life and damage. The Haiti earthquake of 2010 took some quarter of a million lives. No one will ever forget the catastrophic tsunami unleashed in 2011 by a magnitude-9 earthquake off the east coast of Japan – a crisis described by Japan’s prime minister as the most disastrous national event since the atomic bomb strikes of 1945. Tokyo was largely unaffected in 2011, unlike in 1703, 1855 and 1923, when earthquakes ravaged the capital. How long will it be before the next big Tokyo earthquake?

Written by a highly experienced science writer, journalist and scholar, Earthquake will appeal as much to general readers of popular science as it will to experts in many fields.

‘Studying earthquakes is somewhat like the apocryphal medical school dean who tells students: Half of what we will teach you in the next four years is wrong. The problem is that we don't know which half. Robinson conveys this spirit in a lively and well-written introduction to earthquakes and how people discovered, struggle to understand, and try to figure out how to deal with this dramatic, destructive, and still poorly understood phenomenon.’ — Seth Stein, seismologist and author of Disaster Deferred: How New Science Is Changing Our View of Earthquake Hazards in the Midwest

‘One of the startling illustrations in this lively account is a relief on a Pompeiian house of destruction caused by a quake in AD62. Nero said the city should be abandoned. It was, 17 years later.’ — The Independent

‘an immensely readable book, packed with scientific and literary detail’ — Current World Archaeology

‘Andrew Robinson tells an excellent and compelling story . . . [the] colour plates are beautiful . . . Historical aspects are dealt with well and chapter case studies dealing with Lisbon 1755 and Tokyo 1923 earthquakes and the San Andreas Fault are appropriate and helpful. Historical developments and vital lessons learnt from specific earthquakes and case studies are done very well indeed this is the sort of material that appeals to all, including the layman.’ — Geography

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Andrew Robinson is the author of some 25 books on the arts and sciences, and writes for Current World Archaeology, The Lancet, Nature and Science. His recent books include Lost Languages: The Enigma of the World’s Undeciphered Scripts (2009), Earthquake: Nature and Culture (Reaktion, 2012) and India: A Short History (2014). He has been a Visiting Fellow at the University of Cambridge and is a Fellow of the Royal Asiatic Society.

1. Earth-shattering Events
2. Lisbon, 1755: The Wrath of God
3. Seismology Begins
4. Tokyo, 1923: Holocaust
5. Measuring Earthquakes
6. Faults, Plates and Drifting Continents
7. California: The Enigma of the San Andreas Fault
8. Prediction of the Unpredictable
9. Designing against Death

Earthquake Timeline
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Photo Acknowledgements