Natural disasters factor prominently in the history of human civilization, often altering the course of its development. This seminar will explore how earthquakes influence society—politically, economically, and culturally—using case studies that range from the Lisbon earthquake of 1755 to the Tohoku disaster of 2011 to illustrate the relationship between natural hazards and human activity. A brief primer on the present-day understanding of earthquakes will be followed by a discussion of a number of notable events when earthquakes lead to major changes in the society that was affected. Topics such as natural disaster risk mitigation, the possibility of earthquake prediction, and the role of science in keeping civilizations from harm will all be explored. We will also take a weekend field trip to the earthquake-related geological features of northwestern New Jersey.