Winner of the Phi Alpha Theta Best Subsequent Book Award A Los Angeles Times Book Prize Finalist
The captivating and definitive account of the Great Lisbon Earthquake--the most consequential natural disaster of modern times.
On All Saints’ Day 1755, tremors from an earthquake measuring approximately 9.0 or perhaps higher on the magnitude scale swept furiously toward Lisbon, then one of the wealthiest cities in the world and the capital of a vast global empire. Within minutes, much of the city lay in ruins. A half hour later, a giant tsunami unleashed by the quake smashed into Portugal’s coastline and barreled up the Tagus River, carrying countless thousands out to sea. To complete Lisbon’s destruction, a hellacious firestorm then engulfed the city’s shattered remains, killing thousands more and incinerating much of what the earthquake and tsunami had spared.
Drawing on a wealth of new sources, the latest scientific research, and a sophisticated grasp of European history, Mark Molesky gives us the gripping, authoritative account of the Great Lisbon Earthquake disaster and its impact on the Western world—including descriptions of the world’s first international relief effort, the rise of a brutal, yet modernizing, dictatorship in Portugal, and the effect of the catastrophe on the spirit and direction of the European Enlightenment.
About the Author
MARK MOLESKY studied history at the University of Michigan and received his AM and PhD from Harvard, where he was a lecturer on history and literature. He is currently an associate professor of history at Seton Hall University. He lives in New York City.
“A gripping and valuable history … [Molesky] has uncovered new sources on this much-studied disaster, allowing him not only to provide novel anecdotes and insights but also to contribute to debates about the earthquake’s impact on eighteenth-century political and intellectual struggles … A fabulously written monograph that contributes a great deal and never veers toward history lite.” -Charles F. Walker, TheAmerican Historical Review
“Superb … Engrossing … A welcome resurrection of an epic tragedy … Molesky’s gripping portrait … is gleaned from a seemingly endless number of firsthand accounts. [His] narrative … transports you to the midst of this horror.” -William O’Connor, The Daily Beast “Richly readable … [Molesky] paints an astonishing picture of the natural cataclysm that struck Lisbon on Nov. 1, 1755.” -Michael Upchurch, The Seattle Times “The definitive history of the Lisbon earthquake and its aftermath. [This Gulf of Fire] combines exhaustive research with dramatic eyewitness accounts and modern discoveries in geology and seismology … Molesky has masterfully revived [the Lisbon tragedy] here. [This is]a powerful story about human and cultural loss and recovery that is hard to forget.” —R.W. Clark, Washington Independent Review of Books “Molesky’s rendering of the continent-wide philosophical debate following the earthquake is particularly lucid.” —Henrik Bering, The New Criterion
“[A] vivid portrayal . . . Molesky’s story is well-informed and well-paced . . . [and] fluent prose and vivid vignettes keep the reader engaged . . . Molesky paints a dolorous picture of the decadence of the pre-earthquake city . . . [and] knows everything worth knowing about the quake.” —Felipe Fernández-Armesto, The Wall Street Journal
"Molesky brings to vivid and horrifying life a disaster that forever changed Lisbon and provoked a Europe-wide debate about God and the workings of nature." —Matthew Price, The Boston Globe
"A thoroughly absorbing take on a momentous event . . . Anyone interested in history and especially disaster history will find this book enthralling." —Laura Hiatt-Smith, Library Journal
"[A] masterpiece of nonfiction." —News-Record
“Excellent . . . a comprehensive account of nearly every aspect of the disaster . . . As in any disaster story, great heroism and great treachery abounded, and Molesky shows us plenty of examples of both . . . [and] also places this earthquake firmly in its historical context, arguing that the quake and its resultant disasters helped to shape the 18th century.” —Emily Cataneo, Christian Science Monitor
“Humanity’s perennial battles between faith and reason have always been tested most intensely in times of calamity. The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 was the first and most dramatic of such tests in the modern era, and the great calamity has long been waiting for its historian. Now it has its brilliant chronicler and analyst in Mark Molesky whose This Gulf of Fire is an extraordinary marriage of fine, vivid narrative and sharp, clear thought. Full of poignant stories, it makes gripping reading and like all powerful histories stays around in one’s mind long after the last page is read.” —Simon Schama
"Mesmerizingly comprehensive...Magisterial in its account of a world-changing event, this is a book to savor." —John S. Major, The History Book Club
"Focused, well-researched, and fascinating....This smart, comprehensive, colorful account shows readers Lisbon’s phoenix-like recovery from destruction that is now nearly forgotten, and how it ushered in a more recognizably modern response to large-scale natural disasters." —Publishers Weekly
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