Cover image for Volcanoes in human history : the far-reaching effects of major eruptions
Volcanoes in human history : the far-reaching effects of major eruptions
Zeilinga de Boer, Jelle.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Princeton, N.J. : Princeton University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xvii, 295 pages : illustrations, maps ; 24 cm
Format :


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Material Type
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Item Holds
QE522 .B637 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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When the volcano Tambora erupted in Indonesia in 1815, as many as 100,000 people perished as a result of the blast and an ensuing famine caused by the destruction of rice fields on Sumbawa and neighboring islands. Gases and dust particles ejected into the atmosphere changed weather patterns around the world, resulting in the infamous ''year without a summer'' in North America, food riots in Europe, and a widespread cholera epidemic. And the gloomy weather inspired Mary Shelley to write the gothic novel Frankenstein .

This book tells the story of nine such epic volcanic events, explaining the related geology for the general reader and exploring the myriad ways in which the earth's volcanism has affected human history. Zeilinga de Boer and Sanders describe in depth how volcanic activity has had long-lasting effects on societies, cultures, and the environment. After introducing the origins and mechanisms of volcanism, the authors draw on ancient as well as modern accounts--from folklore to poetry and from philosophy to literature. Beginning with the Bronze Age eruption that caused the demise of Minoan Crete, the book tells the human and geological stories of eruptions of such volcanoes as Vesuvius, Krakatau, Mount Pelée, and Tristan da Cunha. Along the way, it shows how volcanism shaped religion in Hawaii, permeated Icelandic mythology and literature, caused widespread population migrations, and spurred scientific discovery.

From the prodigious eruption of Thera more than 3,600 years ago to the relative burp of Mount St. Helens in 1980, the results of volcanism attest to the enduring connections between geology and human destiny.

Author Notes

Jelle Zeilinga de Boer was raised on the highlands of an Indonesian volcano and educated in the lowlands of the Netherlands. He has published widely on the geodynamic frameworks of Costa Rica, Greece, Panama, and the Philippines, and is the Harold T. Stearns Professor of Earth Science at Wesleyan University
Donald Theodore Sanders has worked as a petroleum geologist, a science editor for encyclopedias, and an editor of corporate scientific publications. Before retiring from IBM, he created and edited that company's award-winning academic magazine Perspectives in Computing

Reviews 2

Library Journal Review

After an introductory chapter on volcanism, this volume by geologists Zeilinga de Boer and Sanders shifts its focus to particular volcanic events (e.g., Vesuvius, Mt. Pele, Krakatau) and areas of volcanic activity (e.g., the Hawaiian Islands and Iceland). The events themselves are described, but the emphasis is on the long-term effects of volcanic activity. The authors make it clear that those effects extend beyond the location of the volcano; there are widespread repercussions that influence everything from literature and religion to population migrations and global weather patterns. The authors have applied their geologic knowledge and experience, along with solid research, to produce an accessible book on volcanoes. It is more readable than either Alwyn Scarth's Vulcan's Fury (LJ 9/1/99) or Haraldur Sigurdsson's Melting the Earth (LJ 5/1/99), both of which are referenced. The authors also make good use of historical sources, such as Charles Morris's Volcano's Deadly Work (1902) and Edward Bulwer-Lytton's Last Days of Pompeii (1834). Recommended for academic and larger public libraries. Jean E. Crampon, Science & Engineering Lib., Univ. of Southern California, Los Angeles (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Zeilinga de Boer (Wesleyan Univ.) and Sanders (retired petroleum geologist) describe Hawaiian and Icelandic volcanism along with seven specific volcanic eruptions from elsewhere around the world. The volcanic events reviewed range from relatively minor to history's greatest. The corresponding social consequences range from inconvenient, local, life-style changes to changes in the course of Western civilization, perhaps even in the direction of human evolution. It is nothing new for a volcanology book to devote a chapter or more to the human dimension of volcanism, and there are entire books on the social aspects of specific volcanic eruptions. This book, however, makes it the central theme from beginning to end. In clear prose aimed to include general readers, the authors make the case for the social consequences set in motion by large volcanic eruptions as both wide-ranging and long-lived. Although the book is sparse in terms of photographs, its line drawings are more than adequate and the numerous reproductions of historically important artwork effectively portray volcanoes as they contribute to the work's interdisciplinary tone. General readers; lower-division undergraduates through faculty. E. R. Swanson University of Texas at San Antonio

Table of Contents

Robert D. Ballard
Forewordp. ix
Prefacep. xi
Acknowledgmentsp. xv
Table of Conversionsp. xvii
1 Volcanism: Origins and Consequencesp. 1
Sidebar: Dating of Volcanic Events
2 The Hawaiian Islands and the Legacy of Pele the Fire Goddessp. 22
3 The Bronze Age Eruption of Thera: Destroyer of Atlantis and Minoan Crete?p. 47
4 The Eruption of Vesuvius in 79 C.E.: Cultural Reverberations through the Agesp. 74
5 Iceland: Coming Apart at the Seamsp. 108
6 The Eruption of Tambora in 1815 and "the Year without a Summer"p. 138
Sidebar: Mount Toba: Bigger Than Tambora
7 Krakatau, 1883: Devastation, Death, and Ecologic Revivalp. 157
Sidebar: The Ghosts of Merapi
8 The 1902 Eruption of Mount Pelee: A Geological Catastrophe with Political Overtonesp. 186
Sidebar: Mount Pelee and the Panama Canal
9 Tristan da Cunha in 1961: Exile to the Twentieth Centuryp. 209
10 Mount St. Helens in 1980: Catastrophe in the Cascadesp. 228
Afterwordp. 250
Glossaryp. 251
Notes and Referencesp. 261
Selected Bibliographyp. 279
Indexp. 281