Lisbon Earthquake

            On November 1, 1755, also known as All Saints Day, a sequence of earthquakes hit the Atlantic in Lisbon Portugal. These earthquakes caused a large amount of damage and killed about 60,000 people. Since it was a major holiday, a large number of people living here were attending church, building which at the time were not built to withstand such enormous quakes. A long with the earthquake, the seismic waves created a tsunami that created waves that were almost 20 feet high. These waves traveled west to the Caribbean and was even reported to cause damage to the east. People drowning and fires burning for 6 days caused one of the biggest natural disasters to hit Europe at the time, it made such an impact that it had influenced many artists and writers.

Although it made news around the world, the earliest newspaper I could find from the event was from the New-York Mercury, published in New York, New York on December 29, 1755. This piece was an excerpt from a letter from Cadiz that was written on November 4, 1755, just 3 days later after the natural disaster occurred. In the letter it states that “that place has received damage to the amount of two millions of dollars[1].” And that the town of Algezire has completely sunk due to the tsunami. Because it was said to have waves travel as far as the Caribbean it comes to me as no surprise that people all around the world were printing news about it, writing letter, painting and writing stories. As we can see in the image provided by Britannica, the earthquake was extremely devastating.124576-004-97d6312f

[1]Extract of a Letter from Cadiz, Nov. 4, 1755 (New York, New York), December 29, 1755, 177th ed. America’s Historical Newspaper.

One thought on “Lisbon Earthquake

  1. One of the things I’ve read/heard about the Lisbon earthquake is that Europeans (and Americans) saw it not just as a devastating natural disaster but also as a sign from God (or, conversely, something else, depending on how you felt about Enlightenment rationalism). One might even say that it shook the foundations of belief for many people.

    Did you find that in the American newspaper coverage? Was there any hint of larger meaning in the earthquake beyond the nuts-and-bolts reporting about what happened?


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