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Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Centuryby Geoffrey Parker
Synopses & Reviews
Revolutions, droughts, famines, invasions, wars, regicides – the calamities of the mid-seventeenth century were not only unprecedented, they were agonisingly widespread. A global crisis extended from England to Japan, and from the Russian Empire to sub-Saharan Africa. North and South America, too, suffered turbulence. The distinguished historian Geoffrey Parker examines first-hand accounts of men and women throughout the world describing what they saw and suffered during a sequence of political, economic and social crises that stretched from 1618 to the 1680s. Parker also deploys scientific evidence concerning climate conditions of the period, and his use of ‘natural’ as well as ‘human’ archives transforms our understanding of the World Crisis. Changes in the prevailing weather patterns during the 1640s and 1650s – longer and harsher winters, and cooler and wetter summers – disrupted growing seasons, causing dearth, malnutrition, and disease, along with more deaths and fewer births. Some contemporaries estimated that one-third of the world died, and much of the surviving historical evidence supports their pessimism.
Parker’s demonstration of the link between climate change and worldwide catastrophe 350 years ago stands as an extraordinary historical achievement. And the contemporary implications of his study are equally important: are we at all prepared today for the catastrophes that climate change could bring tomorrow?
"Historian and professor Parker (The Cambridge Illustrated History of Warfare) presents a history of the 17th century that, given its bulk, must surely be the last word on the subject. Focusing on climate-driven unrest around the world, Parker illustrates how events such as drought can drive disease, war, and social change. He cites hundreds of sources dating from that period to the present, including letters, journals, petitions, and published books and articles, though he provides little insight into the accuracy of various sources on specifics like weather data from the 1600s. With a mere 2-degree Celsius change causing significant changes in rice harvests, it is easy to see how the lessons of the past may be relevant today, though Parker reserves commentary on the modern climate for the epilogue. He traces connections between climate and population and war, factors further influencing attitudes toward education and consumption. Few stones are left unturned, from how successful years created agricultural specialists in Germany; to how weather events impacted the Ottoman tragedy; to the roles women played during times of unrest in Europe, India, and China. Parker provides a perceptive but overwhelmingly thorough review of this historical period. (Apr.)" Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
How to account for decades of worldwide war, revolution, and human suffering in the seventeenth century? A master historian uncovers the disturbing answer.
Revolutions, droughts, famines, invasions, wars, regicides, government collapses—the calamities of the mid-seventeenth century were unprecedented in both frequency and extent. The effects of what historians call the "General Crisis" extended from England to Japan, from the Russian Empire to sub-Saharan Africa. The Americas, too, did not escape the turbulence of the time.
In this meticulously researched volume, master historian Geoffrey Parker presents the firsthand testimony of men and women who saw and suffered from the sequence of political, economic, and social crises between 1618 to the late 1680s. Parker also deploys the scientific evidence of climate change during this period. His discoveries revise entirely our understanding of the General Crisis: changes in prevailing weather patterns, especially longer winters and cooler and wetter summers, disrupted growing seasons and destroyed harvests. This in turn brought hunger, malnutrition, and disease; and as material conditions worsened, wars, rebellions, and revolutions rocked the world.
Parker's demonstration of the link between climate change, war, and catastrophe 350 years ago stands as an extraordinary historical achievement. And the implications of his study are equally important: are we adequately prepared—or even preparing—for the catastrophes that climate change brings?
About the Author
Geoffrey Parker is Andreas Dorpalen Professor of History at The Ohio State University. He is the author of more than a dozen books, including seminal works on the Spanish Armada, Western military innovations of 1500–1800, and worldwide military history. He has been awarded the prestigious Heineken Prize for History, 2012. He lives in Ohio.
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