The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850

The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850


The Little Ice Age tells the story of the turbulent, unpredictable, and often very cold years of modern European history, how this altered climate affected historical events, and what it means for today's global warming. Building on research that has only recently confirmed that the world endured a 500-year cold snap, renowned archaeologist Brian Fagan shows how the increasing cold influenced familiar events from Norse exploration to the settlement of North America to the Industrial Revolution. This is a fascinating book for anyone interested in history, climate, and how they interact.


We are in a raft, gliding down a river, toward a waterfall. We have a map but are uncertain of our location and hence are unsure of the distance to the waterfall. Some of us are getting nervous and wish to land immediately; others insist we can continue safely for several more hours. A few are enjoying the ride so much that they deny there is any immediate danger although the map clearly shows a waterfall.... How do we avoid a disaster?

—George S. Philander, Is the Temperature Rising?

April 1963: The waters of the Blackwater River in eastern England were pewter gray, riffled by an arctic northeasterly breeze. Thick snow clouds hovered over the North Sea. Heeling to the strengthening wind, we tacked downriver with the ebb tide, muffled to our ears in every stitch of clothing we had aboard. Braseis coursed into the short waves of the estuary, throwing chill spray that froze as it hit the deck. Within minutes, the decks were sheathed with a thin layer of ice. Thankfully, we turned upstream and found mooring in nearby Brightlingsea Creek. Thick snow began to fall as we thawed out with glasses of mulled rum. Next morning, we woke to an unfamiliar arctic world, cushioned with silent white. There was fifteen centimeters of snow on deck.

Thirty-five years later, I sailed down the Blackwater again, at almost the same time of year. The temperature was 18°C, the water a muddy green, glistening in the afternoon sunshine, skies pale blue overhead. We sailed before a mild southwesterly, tide underfoot, with only thin sweaters on. I shuddered at the memory of the chilly passage of three decades before as we lazed in the warmth, the sort of weather one would expect in a . . .

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