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Fault Lines: Earthquakes and Urbanism in Modern Italy

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Volume 6

Environment in History: International Perspectives

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Fault Lines

Earthquakes and Urbanism in Modern Italy

Giacomo Parrinello

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274 pages, 23 illus., 2 tables, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-950-7 25% OFF! $130.00/£92.00 $97.50/£69.00 Hb Published (May 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-951-4 eBook

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“an original an innovative study…an effective and fascinating narrative structure…a very rigorous research” · From the motivation of the Anci Storia Award

“In this book Parrinello combines two research paths, investigating the two most important Sicilian earthquakes of the twentieth century, the 1908 Messina earthquake/tsunami and the 1968 Belice earthquake. The result is an original and innovative study both in its methodology and primary source acquisition. The effective and fascinating narrative structure opens with a focus on the two seismic events which make the subject of the two sections of the book, and offers a tragic picture of their unfolding and immediate consequences on society and the environment.” · Anci Storia Review

“This book by Giacomo Parrinello is an important source to be added to [the study of disasters]. Hopefully, the topics explored here will soon become an established part of academic research and of social and political debates, and not just an issue superficially and randomly considered when a disaster happens.” · Il Lavoro Culturale

“The challenge that Parrinello posed in the introduction – let the earthquake speak – has been crowned with success.” · Global Environment

“An extremely interesting and well-written book, which takes two major Italian disasters in detail and uses them to tell a series of stories about urban change, the state, national identity, and other issues… The author is passionate about the subject matter he is dealing with—and the material itself is red hot.” · John Foot, University of Bristol

“This is a really fascinating and innovative study on disaster perception and management, on urban-rural development, and on the interconnections of environmental, political, social, and economic history. An essential book for all who want to better understand Sicily's history in the twentieth century.” · Christian Rohr, University of Bern


Earth’s fractured geology is visible in its fault lines. It is along these lines that earthquakes occur, sometimes with disastrous effects. These disturbances can significantly influence urban development, as seen in the aftermath of two earthquakes in Messina, Italy, in 1908 and in the Belice Valley, Sicily, in 1968. Following the history of these places before and after their destruction, this book explores plans and developments that preceded the disasters and the urbanism that emerged from the ruins. These stories explore fault lines between “rural” and “urban,” “backwardness” and “development,” and “before” and “after,” shedding light on the role of environmental forces in the history of human habitats.

Giacomo Parrinello is a Marie Curie Fellow in the Department of Geography and Anthropology at Louisiana State University and the Institute of Social Ecology in Vienna. He has published in the fields of environmental history, history of urban planning, and modern Italian history.

Subject: Environmental Studies 20th Century History General Geography
Area: Southern Europe


List of Illustrations
Sites of disaster map

Introduction: Can Earthquakes Speak?

  • The Voice of the Earthquake
  • A Tale of Two Earthquakes
  • The Structure of This Book

Part I: The 1908 Messina Earthquake

Chapter 1. The 1908 Messina Earthquake

  • Earthquake, Tsunami, and Fire
  • Earthquake Science
  • Earthquake-Proof Urbanism

Chapter 2. Urban Reform 1880-1908

  • Sanitizing the City
  • A New Geography of Urban Water
  • Engineering the City’s Environment
  • To Live Happily and Forget the Quake

Chapter 3. The Modern City 1909-1943

  • The Provisional City (and Its Permanent Consequences)
  • The Master Plan
  • The City Developers versus the Hut Dwellers
  • The New City and Its Darker Sides

Part II: The 1968 Belice Valley Earthquake

Chapter 4. The 1968 Belice Valley Earthquake

  • “Like an Atomic Wasteland”
  • The Disaster of Poverty
  • Road Maps to Development

Chapter 5. Rural Modernity 1933-1967

  • Reclamation and Redemption
  • Development Plans
  • Grassroots Counter-Measures
  • The Many Virtues of Water

Chapter 6. Urbanized Countryside 1968-1993

  • Tents, Barracks, and Committees
  • The City Territory
  • New Towns and Ghost Factories
  • Rural Urbanism

Conclusion: Fault Lines

  • Tales of Earthquake Urbanism
  • Fault Lines in a Seismic Country
  • Hazards, Urbanization, and Nature


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