j. Earthquake of Lisbon, November 1, 1755. A Physical, Psychological, Philosophical, Cultural and Scientific Revolution. Copper Engraving of Lisbon, 1755.
Earthquake of Lisbon, November 1, 1755
In 1755, the earthquake struck on the morning of 1 November, the Catholic holiday of All Saints' Day. Contemporary reports state that the earthquake lasted 3.5-6 min, causing gigantic fissures 5 m (15 ft) wide to appear in the city center. Survivors rushed to the open space of the docks for safety and watched as the water receded, revealing a sea floor littered by lost cargo and old shipwrecks. Approximately 40 min after the earthquake, an enormous tsunami engulfed the harbor and downtown, rushing up the Tagus river, "so fast that several people riding on horseback ... were forced to gallop as fast as possible to the upper grounds for fear of being carried away".
The Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault which marks the boundary between the African (Nubian) and the Eurasian continental plates runs westward from Gibraltar into the Atlantic. It shows a complex and active tectonic behavior, and is responsible for several important earthquakes that hit Lisbon before November 1755: eight in the 14th century, five in the 16th century (including the 1531 earthquake that destroyed 1,500 houses, and the 1597 earthquake when three streets vanished), and three in the 17th century. During the 18th century, earthquakes were reported in 1724 and
1750. The Azores-Gibraltar Transform Fault which marks the boundary between the African (Nubian) and the Eurasian continental plates runs westward from Gibraltar into the Atlantic. It shows a complex and active tectonic behavior, and is responsible for several important earthquakes that hit Lisbon before November 1755: eight in the 14th century, five in the 16th century (including the 1531 earthquake that destroyed 1,500 houses, and the 1597 earthquake when three streets vanished), and three in the 17th century. During the 18th century, earthquakes were reported in 1724 and 1750.
founders, Build here! In six minutes the city was in ruins.... Half the world felt the convulsion.... For many weeks, as we see in the letters and memoirs of that time, people in distant parts of Europe went to bed in alarm, relieved in the morning to find that they had escaped the fate of Lisbon one night more."—"Life of Voltaire," Vol. II, pp. 208, 209.
Economic historian Álvaro Pereira estimated that of Lisbon's population of approximately 200,000 people, some 30,000–40,000 were killed. Another 10,000 may have lost their lives in Morocco; however, a 2009 study of contemporary reports relating to the 1 Nov event found them vague, and difficult to separate from reports of another local series of earthquakes on 18–19 Nov. Pereira estimated the total death toll in Portugal, Spain and Morocco from the earthquake and the resulting fires and tsunami at 40,000 to 50,000 people.
The consequences of the earthquake, however, were not all physical or concrete: The abstract arenas of theology and philosophy were affected as well. In fact, it was in precisely these areas that the quake had its most resonant social effects. No sooner had the quake struck than the numerous clergy of Lisbon began declaring it the wrath of God striking against a sinful populace. This preaching roused many into paroxysms of fear, and such hysteria made it extremely difficult to deal with the crisis in an organized, rational manner. The civil authorities begged the clergy not to preach such fear, but their admonitions were only somewhat successful.
The earthquake had wide-ranging effects on the lives of the populace and intelligentsia. The earthquake had struck on an important church holiday and had destroyed almost every important church in the city, causing anxiety and confusion amongst the citizens of a staunch and devout Roman Catholic city and country, which had been a major patron of the Church. Theologians and philosophers would focus and speculate on the religious cause and message, seeing the earthquake as a manifestation of divine judgment.
Looking down through the ages, the prophet of the Revelation saw the coming of the latter days, when signs of the approaching end were to begin to appear. Just there he beheld "a great earthquake." The terrible event was noted by inspiration as a sign of the coming of the final judgment. Earthquakes there had been before, and increasing earthquakes were to
follow after,—"earthquakes in divers places,"—as Christ foretold, speaking of the signs of His second coming. But as befitted this first of the series of signs of the approaching end, a conviction from God seemed to come into the hearts of men in that generation, that this was indeed a token to remind the world of a coming day of doom.
One of earthquake's consequences extended into the vocabulary of philosophy, making the common metaphor of firm "grounding" for philosophers' arguments shaky and uncertain: "Under the impression exerted by the Lisbon earthquake, which touched the European mind in one [of] its more sensitive epochs, the metaphor of ground and tremor completely lost their apparent innocence; they were no longer merely figures of speech" (Hamacher)
In Portugal, the Marquês de Pombal (Sebastião José de Carvalho e Mello), the autocratic chief minister who ruled the country for three decades, turned to practical matters, declaring the task of the hour to be: “Bury the dead and feed the living.” He proceeded to rebuild central Lisbon, and used the events to break the power of religious zealots, in particular the Jesuits, whom he exiled from Portugal in 1759. This had the beneficial effect of freeing the schools from Church control, and Portugal became the first country in Europe to build a secular education system. Pombal also instituted protectionist policies to make up for Portugal’s industrial backwardness. However, in 1777, King Joseph Emanuel dismissed his chief minister, restored the power of the nobility and the church and reversed Pombal’s industrial policies.
The prime minister ordered a query sent to all parishes of the country regarding the earthquake and its effects. Questions included: