Taking Cover: The 1906 Earthquake, the Destruction of Stanford University, and the Politics of Great Disasters

Sponsored by The Bill Lane Center for the Study of the North American West


Wednesday, April 20, 2005
12:00 pm –
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Building 200, Room 307

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Event Details:

The first indication of the prolonged terror that was to follow the 1906 earthquake occurred when a ship steaming off San Francisco's Golden Gate "seemed to jump clear out of the water" when the shaking started. Philip Fradkin's gripping account of the earthquake, the devastating firestorms that followed, and the city's subsequent reconstruction vividly shows how, after the quake stopped, humans, not the forces of nature, nearly destroyed San Francisco in a remarkable display of simple ineptitude and power politics. Fradkin offers a definitive history of a fascinating city caught in the grip of the country's greatest urban disaster that will forever change conventional understanding of an event one historian called "the very epitome of bigness."

Fradkin introduces the people — both famous and infamous — who experienced these events and reveals how an elite oligarchy failed to serve the needs of ordinary people, the heroic efforts of obscure citizens, the long-lasting psychological effects, and how all these events ushered in a period of unparalleled civic upheaval.

Philip L. Fradkin has written ten books and numerous newspaper and magazine articles. He shared a Pulitzer Prize for his work at the Los Angeles Times for coverage of the 1965 Watts racial conflict. He is a consultant to the Bancroft Library, University of California at Berkeley, and lectures in the Departments of History at Stanford and Williams College.

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