chapter  6
Earthquakes in Early Modern France: From the Old Regime to the Birth of a New Risk
Pages 21

Research on historical earthquakes in France received a great boost from the installation of the nuclear program in the 1970s. When more than three-quarters of a nation’s electricity is nuclear generated, the need for a thorough review of the territory’s seismic history is more than obvious, even though on the whole the French experience of earthquakes has been moderate. This study evolved from a much larger multidisciplinary project aimed at documenting the historical seismicity of France during the last millennium. A huge corpus of published and archival documents was sifted for information on historical earthquakes and the result has been made available in the SisFrance database.1 It contains information on 5,283 real earthquakes over the last ten centuries, described by 85,000 observation points and nearly 9,000 bibliographical references. No other hazard has benefi ted from such a remarkable e ort of collective documentation. Following France, other countries have revisited their seismic history.2 It is worth noting that this kind of work is almost nonexistent in the US. The recovery of knowledge about historical earthquake events is a useful instrument for the assessment and management of risk. If it is impossible to know for sure when an event will occur, we know at least that a past event can reoccur in the same place with similar characteristics. This is why the seismologists of the nuclear security industry are interested in historical analyses of earthquakes.3