Resources for teachers: GEOGRAPHY

The Great Lisbon Quake of 1755

Discipline: GEOGRAPHY

Key Stage: 3 or 4



The Great Lisbon Quake of 1755


Use historical accounts to provide evidence of past events and match these to explanations using modern scientific ideas.


The Great Lisbon Earthquake took place in 1775. But it was not just an earthquake that the residents of Lisbon experienced that night.
Earthquakes occur as a result of the Earth’s plates colliding or rubbing against each other. The plate movements are caused by forces operating within the Earth’s mantle as the magma moves against the plates. A relatively small movement of the crust can create enormous damage to buildings and structures which are not designed to be flexible. A small disturbance of the sea bed can displace huge volumes of water which become even more noticeable as the depth becomes less.

Have a look at these websites for more information:
All about the Great Lisbon Quake
All about plate tectonics
All about the rock cycle


Imagine what could happen in your town if it was hit by a severe earthquake. What other disasters could result? How might your family and your home be affected? How might it affect others around you?

Read the account of the Lisbon earthquake written by the Reverend Charles Davy and answer the questions below.

You may find it easier to read the questions first and use a highlighting tool to pick out parts of the article that are relevant to the questions.


  • List the signs of an earthquake that the author experienced. Put these into the correct sequence.
  • What dangers are faced by people experiencing an earthquake in a coastal town?
  • What was the cause of the darkness that occurred on the fine November morning?
  • What evidence is given that aftershocks occurred?
  • What was the origin of the sulphurous smell?
  • What were the possible causes of fire?
  • Explain what caused the sea level to rise and fall by so much during this time?

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February 2007