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The Storm or, a Collection of the most remarkable Casualties and Disasters which happen’d in the Late Dreadful Tempest, both by Sea and Land (1704) is an account by the English author Daniel Defoe of the great storm of 1703 that hit southern England on 26 November,[a]7 December 1703 in the Gregorian calendar in use today. causing extensive and massive destruction.[1] It has been estimated that by the following morning between 8,000 and 15,000 people had been killed, many of them on ships sunk at sea;[2] the Royal Navy alone lost one-fifth of its personnel.[3]

Daniel Defoe travelled the countryside in the aftermath of what remains the worst storm ever to hit the British Isles assessing the damage, and his account, published as The Storm in 1704, is considered to be a landmark in the history of print journalism.[1] Although written as a first-person narrative, it is based on first-hand accounts of the events solicited from all over the country. Defoe placed advertisements in the London Gazette and The Daily CourantThe Daily Courant, first published on 11 March 1702, was the first British daily newspaper. appealing for eyewitness to come forward:

To preserve the Remembrance of the late Dreadful Tempest, an exact and faithful Collection is preparing of the most remarkable Disasters which happened on that Occasion, with the Places where, and Persons concern’d whether at Sea or on Shore. For the perfecting so good a Work, ’tis humbly recommended by the Author to all Gentlemen of the Clergy, or others, who have made any Observations of this Calamity, that they would transmit as distinct an Account as possible, of what they have observed.
— London Gazette 3975, 13–16 December[4]

Where Defoe is unable to assess the credibility of his eyewitness accounts, he is at pains to point out that he is publishing second-hand testimony. He is an early example of the kind of eyewitness reporter so familiar today, “… out and about in the streets, dodging danger (in this case flying roof tiles) as he talked to people. He asked, he observed, he counted, he made projections from the statistics, and he apportioned blame.”[5] Although Defoe begins The Storm by relating some late 17th-century ideas about the physical causes of wind, he also suggests that God “may have [had] an overarching purpose in sending this particular one”, a punishment for wickedness and an attempt by God to prove his existence to atheists.[6]

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Citations



Bibliography


McKay, Jenny. “Defoe’s The Storm as a Model for Contemporary Reporting.” The Journalistic Imagination: Literary Journalists From Defoe to Capote and Carter, edited by Richard Keeble and Sharon Wheeler, Ebook, Routledge, 2007, pp. 15–28.
Press Association. “A History of Great British Storms.” The Guardian, 10 Mar. 2008, https://www.theguardian.com/world/2008/mar/10/weather.