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The Last Day: Wrath, Ruin, and Reason in the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755

3.41 of 5 stars 3.41  ·  rating details  ·  94 ratings  ·  27 reviews
A riveting history of how the cataclysmic Lisbon earthquake shook the religious and intellectual foundations of Enlightenment Europe.

Along with the volcanic destruction of Pompeii and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake, the Lisbon quake of 1755 is one of the most destructive natural disasters ever recorded. After being jolted by a massive quake, Lisbon was then pounded by
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Audio CD, 0 pages
Published April 21st 2008 by Tantor Media (first published 2008)
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GoldGato
"Bury the dead...feed the living."

Thus spoke the Marquis of Pombal, who was the Prime Minister of Portugal when the Great Lisbon Earthquake struck on November 1, 1755. All Saints day. The quake lasted for several minutes, rupturing streets and creating chasms where pedestrians fell to their crushing deaths. Mother Nature wasn't done yet. Deciding that a long and catastrophic tremblor wasn't sufficient, fires started and burned down the few buildings left standing. In terror, people ran to the ha
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Lauren Albert
The title is misleading in that the book is about a lot more than the earthquake and is aftermath in Portugal. Shrady gives a brief history of the country and the city as well so the reader can understand the cultural and religious sides of the effect of the disaster. He shows how and why Portugal was so backward while being so wealthy--the country, because of the immense diamond and gold wealth coming to it from its colony in Brazil, never developed industry. The wealth that came in did not "tr ...more
Steven
I stumbled across this while browsing at the public library a few days ago. My partner and I visited Lisbon in 2000 and I learned a little about the earthquake at the time. When I saw this, I thought I'd take the opportunity to learn more.

This books is as much about Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo, Marquis of Pombal, as it was about the earthquake of 1755. Carvalho, with the blessing of King José I, spearheaded the initiative to rebuild Lisbon after the quake, instituting enlightenment-style r
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Shawn Doyle
Interesting and informative, but ultimately falls short. Not half baked, but decidedly underdone.

In the disaster of Lisbon, Shrady has a compelling narrative with deep implications for the development of western thought. However, The Last Day is too shallow to be an academic account while also being too broad and devoid of cohesive narrative to make a satisfactory 'popular history'. As a result of its structural deficiencies, the book's climactic epilogue - a declaration of the singularity that
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José Luís  Fernandes
When I started reading this book, I was enjoying it throughly, but then several flaws appeared that put me off. First of all (but it doesn't matter much) when it described the tsunami that happened after the Great Lisbon Earhquake which destroyed much of the parts of Lisbon's center which hadn't been so afected by the first natural disaster or by the uncontrolled fires resulting from it.

All might have been well if that was the only issue and I could have given the maximum grade, but then I read
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Sasha
Because work often brings me to Lisbon,I thought it would be good to learn a bit more about the towns history and this book was a thrill - informative,interesting and easy to read without too many technical details,it gives clear picture of Lisbon the way it was before that fateful day in 1755. when earthquake,tsunamis and fire literally destroyed the town and how it was subsequently rebuilt again with heroic efforts by certain Mr.Carvalho who was given full freedom by king of Portugal,way too s ...more
Jeff
May 13, 2008 Jeff marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
From the L.A. Times:

May 11, 2008

The earthquake that leveled Lisbon in 1755 shook more than the ground, journalist Nicholas Shrady reveals in this lively account. It flattened religious and philosophical certainties as well, and it was an equal-opportunity disturber of the peace, discrediting the reactionary orthodoxy that held Portugal in an iron grip even as it challenged the optimistic creed of the rationalists seeking to loosen that grip all over Europe.

When the first of three devastating tem
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Mark Desrosiers
So many recent natural disasters have befallen us puny humans that it's easy to forget the truly nasty ones, the ones that test our beliefs and reshape entire intellectual landscapes. Even the savviest seismologist still can't figure out which kraken got loosed when this earthquake-plus-tsunami destroyed the world's most devout Catholic city on All Saint's Day in 1755. Lisbon turned into a corpse-fueled firestorm, piles of rubble and moaning bisected humans as far as the eye could see. Many of t ...more
Bill
Interesting book about a topic that I was completely unaware of. The book discusses a devastating earthquake that hit Lisbon in 1755 and basically levels 80% of the city. I mostly read this book to learn something about Portugal and Lisbon, but it was interesting throughout and a quick read.

The events in the book became interesting because it was one of the first major natural disasters that hit an advanced country and was discussed around the world by other western European nations. It was inte
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Jim O'Donnell
I have to admit that I was a little disappointed with this book. I bought it hoping to learn alot more about the Great Lisbon Earthquake of 1755. Surprisingly, there is very little in here about the actual earthquake...the geology, the actual quake, how the tsunami ensued, damage in other places...yes, some of that is in there but shockingly little. I learned MUCH more about the earthquake from Wikipedia!! That was disappointing. But it wasnt all a loss.

In fact, what this book is about (95% of i
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José Campos
If you are looking for a detailed account of the 1755 Lisbon Earthquake, this is not the book you are looking for. All details about the actual earthquake, tsunami and fire are comprised in about 6 pages, all together. That's a shame because the book's title entices the reader with such expectations.

Nonetheless, it's a pleasurable reading that offers a quite comprehensive view of the portuguese history and context prior, during and after the tragic event.

Apart from quite a few portuguese words
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Jpp
Um relato brilhante duma das maiores catastrofas naturais que abalou o mundo ocidental. Shrady nao somente descreve o desastre que destrui Lisboa no 1ero de Novembro juntando terremoto, tsunami e incendio. Colocando esse momento dramatico na sequencia historica vivido pelo Portugal, entre fanatismo religioso e decadencia economica, ele mostra como a cidade comecou a se reerguer sob a mao de ferro do Marques de Pombal, e como o despotismo reformador acabou nao sobrevivendo a morte do rei. Se Lisb ...more
AnnP Palomo
Somewhere in a mental subprocess I wondered what happened to the Portuguese exploration powerhouse of the 17th and 18th centuries. Now I know. Huge earthquake followed by devastating tidal waves in 1755. Nearly every physical structure and maritime vessel in Lisbon was gone within a couple of hours. Economic, political, and social disaster.

Once the physical tremors and waves had gone, the cultural ripple-effect of the disaster gradually spread throughout Europe, affecting everything from public
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Richard
I read this book in preparation for my first trip to Portugal, a country that has been virtually invisible from history for several hundred years. The story of the quake and the nation's response was well told and quite interesting. The discussion of the political, social and economic context was even more thought provoking. It motivated me to do additional reading on Portuguese history, which collectively presents a disturbing case study of the impact of rigid religious and political dogmatism ...more
Grumpus
This is based upon the audio download from [www.audible.com]

Narrated by Patrick Lawlor

Like the output of a seismograph, my interest in this book bounced up and down all over the chart. There were some very interesting parts that captivated me but then as quickly as I was drawn in, my interest would subside. This see-saw effect was detrimental to my enjoyment and therefore, only 2 stars; meaning it was just OK.
Tuck
interesting little book. learn about cavalho taking charge and rebuilding the city. he also got the jesuits banned, de-royalized the taveres family (those he didn't torture and burn), and tried his hand at state owned industries. the baixa barrio was his doing. after the king joao I died, the reactionary queen fired cavalho and undid most of his reforms.
David
Especially interesting to read this in the wake of the recent earthquake and tsunami. Here we have an example of the first modern government response to large scale devastation. As the author notes, the Bush administration could have used the Marques de Pombal to handle Katrina.
Kennedy
Could have benefited from more maps. There were two, but too small to read. There was lots of discussion about different places (where the King was when the earthquake hit, other cities in Portugal, etc), but since there weren't maps it was hard to have a reference point.
Phyl
Very interesting book. It starts with an account of a devastating earthquake but then goes on to give a thumbnail account of Portuguese history and its economics, religious fervor, poverty, etc.
Marcel Arins
O livro é excelente. Principalmente para uma revisão da história portuguesa e brasileira. Descreve as ações que tornaram Marquês de Pombal tão importante para Portugal.
Eric
It's an easy read about an interesting and often forgotten about disaster that influence modern Europe, literature, intellectualism, and earthquake science.
Matthew
It's hilarious how much Shrady *hates* the fact that a maritime empire like Portugal's had to import fish.
☯Bettie☯
Apr 10, 2014 ☯Bettie☯ marked it as wish-list  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to ☯Bettie☯ by: GoldGato
to look into further/hunt down
Dianna
Excellent – readable – extremely interesting.
John
Apr 10, 2008 John marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Reviewd by The Economist April 15, 2008
Tom Darrow
Disorganized and weakly argued.
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