Disasters and Tragic Events

An Encyclopedia of Catastrophes in American History

by Mitchell Newton-Matza, Editor


Some of the worst disasters in American history have almost been forgotten.

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Cover image for Disasters and Tragic Events

March 2014


Pages 789
Volumes 2
Size 7x10
Topics American History/Environment

From the Salem Witch Trials of 1692 to the Sandy Hook school massacre of 2012, this two-volume encyclopedia surveys tragic events—natural and man-made, famous and forgotten—that helped shape American history.

Tragedies and disasters have always been part of the fabric of American history. Some gave rise to reactions that profoundly influenced the nation. Others dominated public consciousness for a moment, then disappeared from collective memory. Organized chronologically, Disasters and Tragic Events examines these moments, covering both the familiar and the obscure and probing their immediate and long-term effects. Unlike other works that concentrate on a particular type of disaster, for example, weather- or medicine-related tragedies, this two-volume encyclopedia has no such limits. Its entries range from natural disasters, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, to civic disturbances, environmental disasters, epidemics and medical errors, transportation accidents, and more. The work is a perfect supplement for history classes and will also prove of great interest to the general reader.


  • Covers a wide range of topics, from the infamous to the obscure
  • Places each event in context, giving it deeper meaning and showing its impact
  • Includes primary source material from U.S. Supreme Court cases, presidential speeches, eyewitness accounts, state and federal legislation, and federal government investigations
  • Brings the events it covers to life through photos and illustrations
Author Info

Mitchell Newton-Matza, PhD, is instructor of history at Northern Virginia Community College, Alexandria Campus. His previous book with ABC-CLIO is Jazz Age: People and Perspectives. In addition to writing numerous short reference pieces and journal articles, Newton-Matza contributed the essay "Was domestic Communism an actual threat to the U.S. in the mid-20th century?" within ABC-CLIO's Solutions American History online database and numerous entries in ABC-CLIO's Solutions World at War: Understanding Conflict and Society database. He holds a doctorate in labor/legal history from The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC.



"Both the methodology and the writing are consistent throughout. Topics, though heavily slanted toward the 20th century, encompass a diversity of interests."Booklist

"This well-written, well-researched, and thorough resource is an excellent introduction to its topic. Recommended."Choice

"Each entry is thoughtful and written with insight into the connectivity of these events with other historical events. Numerous references throughout both volumes boost the teaching value of this publication, and the formatting makes it a pleasure to use as a handy reference guide."Reference Reviews

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