Kicking off the History in 50 series, this volume presents 50 stories about disasters that pitted “human civilization against the forces of nature.”
Earthquakes, volcanoes, floods, droughts, diseases. “Our planet is a wild place,” and Eaton explores 50 disasters caused at least in part by natural forces and examines what they reveal about civilization. A volcano may have contributed to the decline of the Neanderthals. The Black Death wiped out one-third of the population of Europe. The San Francisco earthquake left half the city’s population homeless. The influenza pandemic of 1918 claimed as many as 50 million lives, more than the death toll of World War I. The stories, most two or three pages long and arranged chronologically, are related in clear and straightforward prose, supported by photographs, maps, charts, and reproductions of artwork through the ages. Lest readers get preoccupied by body counts and deciding which disaster was the worst, the real lessons to be derived are discussed in a brief conclusion. What’s most important is how people responded to the disasters: some people became heroes, some organized relief efforts, some looted, some blamed others, and some got to work trying to prevent future disasters. Though extensive backmatter is included, the many books available for young readers on some of the topics are not included.
A fascinating volume especially suited for browsing. (glossary, sources and additional resources, endnotes, index) (Nonfiction. 10-14)