On All Saints Day 1755, tremors from an earthquake measuring 9.0 (or higher) on the Moment Magnitude Scale swept from the Atlantic seabed toward the Iberian and African coasts. Lisbon, one of the wealthiest cities in the world and the capital of a vast global empire, was directly in their path. Within minutes, much of the city lay in ruins.
But this was only the beginning. The quake unleashed a giant tsunami which smashed into Portugal’s coastline and barreled up the Tagus river, carrying countless thousands out to sea. By day’s end, the great wave chain claimed victims on four separate continents. To complete Lisbon’s destruction, a hellacious firestorm engulfed the city’s shattered remains and burned for several weeks, killing thousands 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 authoritative account of the Great Lisbon 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 disaster on the spirit and direction of the European Enlightenment.