Physics History and Japan. The one that immediately springs to mind is The Manhattan Project. You can even get earthquakes in if you compare the immediate damage and loss of life in Hiroshima and Nagasaki with the Great Kanto Earthquake. Not a very positive or cheerful subject though.
While reading about the Great Kanto quake just now, I came across a book I might try to buy. It has an interesting thesis about the quake
http://books.google.com/books?id=6O8Vyh ... #PPA278,M1
Joshua Hammer searched diaries, letters, and newspaper accounts and conducted interviews with nonagenarian survivors to piece together a minute-by-minute account of the catastrophe. But the author offers more than a disaster narrative. He details the emerging study of seismology, the nascent wireless communications network that alerted the world, and the massive, American-led relief effort that seemed to promise a bright new era in U.S.-Japanese relations.
Hammer shows that the calamity led in fact to a hardening of racist attitudes in both Japan and the United States, and drove Japan, then a fledgling democracy, into the hands of radical militarists with imperial ambitions. He argues persuasively that the forces that ripped through the archipelago on September 1, 1923, would reverberate, traumatically, for decades to come.
There seems a fair amount of historical scope there. The physics angle might be harder. However I would have thought you could argue after describing the physics of the phenomenon (the physics bit), that a disaster of this scale would have large effects on a nation (the history bit) and lead to further applied physics trying to predict and mitigate the effects of earthquakes and tsunami.
There is also a link to another interesting titled book
Earthquakes in human history by deBoer et al.
PS The Nobi quake of 1891 (whch I hadn't know of before) is also worth looking at.