Gregory SmitsSeismic Japan: The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake

University of Hawaii Press, 2013

by Carla Nappi on August 16, 2014

Gregory Smits

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In two recent books, Gregory Smits offers a history of earthquakes and seismology in Japan that creates a wonderful dialogue between history and the sciences. Seismic Japan: The Long History and Continuing Legacy of the Ansei Edo Earthquake (University of Hawai’i Press, 2013) is a deeply contextualized study of the 1855 Ansei Edo earthquake and its reverberations into the twenty-first century, arguing that the quake not only played an important role in shaping ideas about politics, religion, geography, and the sciences in Japan, but also generated new ways of thinking about human agency and earthquakes that continue to be influential today. When the Earth Roars: Lessons from the History of Earthquakes in Japan (Rowman & Littlefield, 2014) is a synthetic account of earthquakes along the Sanriku coast of Japan from early modernity to now, offering a deep contextualization of the 3/11 disaster and some important lessons for how we might cope with the possibilities of further seismic activity (in Japan and beyond) in the future. Both books build on Smits’ expertise in the documents of Japanese history to inform and create a history of science that speaks beautifully to contemporary issues of profound global importance. Enjoy!

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