The Lost History Of The New Madrid Earthquakes

Paperback | March 24, 2015

byConevery Bolton Valencius

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From December 1811 to February 1812, massive earthquakes shook the middle Mississippi Valley, collapsing homes, snapping large trees midtrunk, and briefly but dramatically reversing the flow of the continent’s mightiest river. For decades, people puzzled over the causes of 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, even denied and ridiculed as tall tales, were in fact enormously important at the time of their occurrence, and continue to affect us today. 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 Indians, 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 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.     
           
Engagingly written and ambitiously researched—both in the scientific literature and the writings of the time—The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes will be an important resource in environmental history, geology, and seismology, as well as history of science and medicine and early American and Native American history.

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From December 1811 to February 1812, massive earthquakes shook the middle Mississippi Valley, collapsing homes, snapping large trees midtrunk, and briefly but dramatically reversing the flow of the continent’s mightiest river. For decades, people puzzled over the causes of the quakes, but by the time the nation began to recover from th...

Conevery Bolton Valencius is associate professor in the Department of History and the School for the Environment at the University of Massachusetts Boston. She is the author of The Health of the Country: How American Settlers Understood Themselves and Their Land.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:472 pages, 9 × 6 × 1.2 inPublished:March 24, 2015Publisher:University of Chicago PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:022627375X

ISBN - 13:9780226273754

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Table of Contents

Introduction: Earthquake Cracks

1    A Great Commotion: The Experience of the New Madrid Earthquakes
2    Earthquakes and the End of the New Madrid Hinterland
3    Revival and Resistance: Earthquakes on Native Ground
4    The Quaking Body: Sensation, Electricity, and Religious Revival
5    Vernacular Science: Knowing Earthquakes in the Early United States
6    Sunk Lands and Submerged Knowledge: How War, Swamps, and Seismographs Hid Evidence of the New Madrid Earthquakes
7    The Science of Deep History: Old Accounts and Modern Science of New Madrid

Conclusion: Memory and Earth in the Mississippi Valley

Notes 
Bibliographic Essays
Index 

Editorial Reviews

“How is it possible for a natural disaster to remake an entire region, physically and socially—and yet to be erased from history within two generations? In The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes Conevery Bolton Valencius tells a moving and mind-boggling tale of the production and destruction of natural knowledge. She follows the motley cast of amateurs who first tracked down the scientific evidence, as well as the modernizing forces that buried it once again. Her prodigious research reveals exactly how these earthquakes changed the course of history in the Mississippi Valley region. Remarkably, she shows that if we want to understand race relations in this part of the country in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, we need to understand geology. This beautifully written book will stand as a model for integrating environmental and social history with the history of science.”