Kenneth Karmiole Research Fellowship Presentation: Witnessing Disaster

Thu 5/9/2024 • 12PM - 1PM PDT


Talk given by John Sullivan a PhD candidate and Quinn Fellow in the History Department at Northwestern University.
Between 1788 and 1793, the Frenchman Louis-Benjamin Fleuriau de Bellevue (1761–1852) trekked the length of Italy and climbed its Alpine peaks, a long sojourn that capped his years of training as a geologist and natural historian. Toward the end of his journeys, he passed through Sicily and Calabria, in the peninsula’s far south, to observe the devastating aftermath of a series of earthquakes that had rocked the region in 1783. In this talk, John Sullivan will incorporate Bellevue’s travel notebooks into a rich body of evidence documenting the various historical methods and genres used to comprehend earthquakes and their attendant phenomena in eighteenth-century Naples and Guatemala, kingdoms then within a common Bourbon imperial sphere. Bringing together natural histories, like Bellevue’s, as well as chronology, conjectural history, exemplary history, and bureaucratic testimonies, Sullivan will reveal what historically pregnant moments earthquakes were. On one hand, he will demonstrate how different sociopolitical contexts shaped the types of seismic histories written on either side of the Atlantic. On the other, he will point up the central role of cities as a throughline uniting many of these historical narratives.

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Center for 17th- & 18th-Century Studies