Abstract

This article examines the great Port Royal earthquake of 1692 in the context of other earthquakes that struck Jamaica in the seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. It argues that although most commentators viewed the tremendous devastation caused by the 1692 disaster as a divine judgment against Port Royal, a few observers suggested that the extent of damage also reflected geographic and architectural factors. It further argues that the frequent experience of earthquakes in Jamaica altered how colonists interpreted such events. Large-scale disasters like Port Royal retained providential meaning, but colonists dismissed numerous other earthquakes, even though similar minor tremors occasioned an outpouring of sermons and moralizing in other parts of the British Atlantic world. As colonists in Jamaica gained more knowledge about the natural world in Jamaica, they learned that earthquakes were common occurrences. As a result, most earthquakes gradually ceased to appear as extraordinary or providential events.

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Additional Information

ISSN
1559-0895
Print ISSN
1543-4273
Pages
pp. 391-421
Launched on MUSE
2008-10-26
Open Access
No
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