Research Programs: Fellowships for College Teachers and Independent Scholars

Period of Performance

1/1/2008 - 12/31/2008

Funding Totals

$50,400.00 (approved)
$50,400.00 (awarded)

The New Madrid Earthquake and the Transformation of 19th-Century Science and Culture

FAIN: FB-53918-08

Conevery Bolton Valencius
Boston College (Chestnut Hill, MA 02467-3800)

I propose to write a book about the New Madrid earthquakes, temblors that shook eastern North America in the winter of 1811-1812. This book will tell a new and vital story of the middle Mississippi Valley at a crucial period of the nation's development, as a thriving area of multi-ethnic trade was transformed not only by territorial encroachment but by powerful earthquakes. Accounts of the quake likewise reveal a broadly-shared culture of science in the U.S., one that disappeared as earth science became the domain of expert knowledge. In changing knowledge of these quakes lies an unrecognized history of evidence and causation. At once an environmental history and a history of science, Sciences of the Shaking Earth will knit together these two fields. Tracing past and present attempts to figure out the earth's history, it will reveal neglected aspects of American society in the early 19th century and of the role of science in American intellectual and cultural life.