Post by Rev. Dr David Chester
I recently attended a conference in Lisbon entitled, Leibniz’s Theodicy: Reception and Relevance. In the past I have written papers on the cause, course and impact of the 1755 Lisbon earthquake (see also here) an event which was not only one of the most serious natural disasters to have affected western Europe, but also sent shock waves through the European intellectual elite of the time. Written in the early eighteenth century, Leibniz’s Theodicy argued that that the world is the best possible world that could have been created, a position which was challenged in the aftermath of the earthquake. My role as the one of only two non-philosophers at the conference was to provide an introduction to the earthquake and chart recovery from it.
Following the eruption the Marquês de Pombal, the King’s chief minister of the time, was a pioneer in reconstructing Lisbon using earthquake-proofing initiatives which included: wide streets; fire-breaks between buildings; restrictions on building height and, most innovative of all, the construction of a timber-framed structure within buildings to absorb shocks and so allow people to survive future events.