The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes

By Whayne, Jeannie M. | The Arkansas Historical Quarterly, Autumn 2014 | Go to article overview

The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes


Whayne, Jeannie M., The Arkansas Historical Quarterly


The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes. By Conevery Bolton Valencius. (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013. Pp. 460. Illustrations, maps, notes, bibliographic essays, acknowledgments, index. $35.00.)

The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes will stand as the authoritative history of some of the most massive earthquakes in world history-those that shook what is now southeastern Missouri and northeastern Arkansas in 1811-1812. Not only has Conevery Bolton Valencius mastered the secondary literature and mined the primary documents, she has accomplished what no scholar before had managed. By viewing the cataclysmic events of 1811 and 1812 through the lens of twenty-first century seismology, she has provided an informed characterization of what probably caused the quakes and what precisely happened on those fateful days. This may be what one would expect of an accomplished scholar trained in Harvard's history of science program, but Valencius has rendered the account at once more persuasive and enduring by also carefully incorporating social and religious history into the narrative.

The thoughtful and perceptive introduction poses four questions she intends to answer: (1) Why did the earthquakes matter at the time they occurred? (2) If they mattered so much at the time, how could they be nearly unknown to those living in the twenty-first century? (3) How and why were the earthquakes "suddenly" rediscovered by scientists? (4) What might be made of the threat of further activity along the New Madrid fault line? Valencius shapes the volume around these crucial questions. She addresses first how the quakes were understood at the time by using one of the American frontier's most iconic figures: Davy Crockett, who claimed to have slipped into an earthquake fissure while pursuing a bear. The tale has the advantage of responding, at least in an introductory way, to two of the author's questions: How the earthquakes were understood and experienced by early nineteenth century frontiers people and the manner in which they came to be the subject of folklore. Over time, chroniclers diminished the fissure as an aspect of the tale just as the public in general lost interest in the earthquakes. Technological and agricultural innovation eradicated most of the traces leftby the earthquakes and, as modern communication reduced folk tales themselves to romantic artifacts, the earthquakes faded from the national consciousness.

Even as the veracity of folk tales and oral accounts became suspect in terms of understanding both the scope and the cause of earthquakes, "two profound changes shaped the discipline of modern seismology: the instrumentalization of seismic observation in the decades surrounding the turn of the [nineteenth to twentieth] century and the reconceptualization of the earth's composition and movement" (p. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Note: primary sources have slightly different requirements for citation. Please see these guidelines for more information.

Cited article

The Lost History of the New Madrid Earthquakes
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen
Items saved from this article
  • Highlights & Notes
  • Citations
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA 8, MLA 7, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Search by... Author
    Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.