[UCP Books]: The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes

“Valencius gives us a history of a single place, of a handful of seismic events that occurred there, and of how people knew about them. In so doing, she gives us a history of modern scientific knowledge itself.”
Joyce E. Chaplin, Harvard University
 
“A masterful blend of the history of science and society.”
Elliott West, University of Arkansas
 
“A moving and mind-boggling tale of the production and destruction of natural knowledge.”
Deborah R. Coen, author of The Earthquake Observers


Conevery Bolton Valencius


Publication date: October 15, 2013 Cloth $35.00/₤24.50
International publication date: October 28, 2013   978-0-226-05389-9

 
From December 1811 to February 1812, massive earthquakes shook the middle Mississippi Valley, collapsing homes, snapping trees, and briefly but dramatically reversing the flow of the continent’s mightiest river. For decades, people puzzled over the quakes, but by the time the nation began to recover from the Civil War, the New Madrid earthquakes had been essentially forgotten.

In The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes, Conevery Bolton Valencius remembers this major environmental disaster, demonstrating how events that have been long forgotten, and even denied or ridiculed as tall tales, were in fact enormously important at the time of their occurrence and continue to shape contemporary seismology and disaster planning. Valencius weaves together scientific and historical evidence to demonstrate the vast role the New Madrid earthquakes played in the United States in the early nineteenth century, shaping the settlement patterns of early western Cherokees and other Native Americans, heightening the credibility of Tecumseh and Tenskwatawa for their Indian league in the War of 1812, giving force to frontier religious revival, and spreading scientific inquiry. Moving into the present, Valencius explores the recent resurgence of New Madrid earthquake science and investigates the intertwined reasons—environmental, scientific, social, and economic—why something as consequential as major earthquakes can be lost from public knowledge, offering a cautionary tale in a world struggling to respond to global climate change amid widespread willful denial.
 
Conevery Bolton Valencius is assistant professor at the University of Massachusetts Boston, where she teaches environmental history, history of science and medicine, and the American Civil War. She is the author of The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land. She lives in Boston.

Please contact Micah Fehrenbacher at (773) 702-7717 or micahf@uchicago.edu for more information.

 

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