The Lisbon Earthquake of 1755 Essay

1524 Words 7 Pages
The Lisbon earthquake of 1755 was not only damaging in its physical damage that was done to the lands; but also damaging in the sense that it caused a plethora philosophical and religious debates that shook, although eventually shaped European Enlightenment. In spite of this disaster; however, there were several new philosophical and scientific developments that are rooted in this earthquake. Nicholas Shrady gives an account of this disaster along with great detail of the aftermath and the process of rebuilding the city, and Western civilization as a whole.
On November 1, 1755, All Saints’ Day, Lisbon suffered through the most destructive natural disaster to date. Nearly all citizens were attending mass as this disaster began.
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Sebastião José de Carvalho e Melo offered a strong yet simple Enlightenment idea, “bury the dead and free the living” (p.24). More simply put, the new goal would be to clear out the area, and rebuild Lisbon. Although Carvalho was an improbable leader, after gaining support of the king, he took charge with his new plan.
Upon arriving to the destroyed city of Lisbon, he decided his first step would be in obtaining order. He sent troops to save whatever citizens possible, while fighting fires, punishing thieves, and sorting through debris. Carvalho’s ultimate goal was to rebuild the city; however, this would naturally take time. All citizens were forbidden from building any form of permanent settlements in the mean time until a solid, new plan for Lisbon could be drawn up.
Carvalho saw one impediment upon his plan: the religious views of many within Lisbon. To outsiders, oftentimes more enlightened, the Portuguese seemed to spend a great deal of time focusing on superstition and rituals. Due to this lack of enlightenment, the clergymen of Portugal saw this disaster as a punishment for sins that had occurred and thought the way to remedy this situation was to repent. At the time of the earthquake, there was a great deal of debate as to whether or not this earthquake was an act of God. Over the previous centuries, Lisbon became engrossed in their trade and the exploitation of mines. Some saw this earthquake as

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