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date: 22 January 2020

Abstract and Keywords

This chapter provides an introduction to environmental history and discusses the economic and ecological dimensions of agrarian societies in relation to weather and climate. Agricultural production of biomass, food, animal feed, and forest produce, powered by the sun, was their only source of energy, the supply of which fluctuated according to weather conditions and could not be increased on a per capita basis. Weather patterns in western and central Europe are known in outline after 1200, and in more detail after 1500. During the Little Ice Age, from 1300 to 1900, the winter half year (October to March) was colder than today. Cold springs followed by rainy summers, repeatedly triggered by volcanic explosions in the tropics, led to harvest failures and famines, often in synergy with wars. These were particularly frequent between 1570 and 1630, in the mid-seventeenth century and during the 1690s.

Keywords: Environmental history, agrarian society, sun’s energy, Little Ice Age, famines

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