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A Cultural History of Climate Paperback – December 21, 2009

ISBN-13: 978-0745645292 ISBN-10: 0745645291 Edition: 1st

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A Cultural History of Climate + The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History 1300-1850 + The Long Summer: How Climate Changed Civilization
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 280 pages
  • Publisher: Polity; 1 edition (December 21, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0745645291
  • ISBN-13: 978-0745645292
  • Product Dimensions: 8.9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #436,224 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"The reaction of societies to environmental change in this thoroughly research and insightful book is presented in a highly readable way, whether Behringer is dealing with the Medieval Warm Period and wine harvest data, or with the Little Ice Age and the rise of the Dutch genre of winter landscape painting."

"[E]xcellent ... I strongly recommend A Cultural History of Climate ... It is particularly strong on explaining the dramatic cultural and social changes that climate variations have had on humanity over the last thousands of years, and discussing the archival and physical evidence in a very compelling way."
Socialist Unity


“A daring account of the ways in which climate has influenced the human story … he proves beyond any sensible doubt that climate has helped shape human history. BOOK OF THE MONTH.”

"Behringer's cultural history of climate shows that today's concern with global warming is only the latest example of humankind's preoccupation with weather and climate. He provides a careful and realistic view of the reaction of societies to environmental change."
J. Donald Hughes, University of Denver

"Today we may worry about global warming and climate change, but our ancestors coped with plenty of dramatic climate change too – this is the central theme of Behringer's arresting global study of human responses to changing climate since our species appeared on earth. Not all readers will share his sanguine tone but they will find this extensively researched book consistently provocative and insightful, whether it's dealing with wine harvest data, adoption of heavier clothing, the great ice age or the Dutch genre of winter landscape painting."
Peter Coates, University of Bristol

From the Back Cover

Everyone talks about the weather. We are no exception: there are currently more predictions than usual about what it will look like in the future. But what do we know about climate variations 500 years ago, or 5000 years ago? How can we know anything at all about the history of weather? What impact have climate changes had on human prosperity and the spirit of invention?

Wolfgang Behringer introduces us to the latest historical research on the development of the earth's climate; he shows what may today be considered secure knowledge, which changes have taken place in the past, and how they hindered or promoted the advance of Homo sapiens. The book first offers some elements of scientific orientation, then examines in greater detail the connection between the climate and cultural development since the middle ages. Behringer's exciting study graphically portrays the difficulties that our ancestors had to face and the solutions they came up with, and also discusses sometimes balmier periods such as the age of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. It will give us new heart to think of climate change as the number one challenge for our generation and to develop more positive approaches to the issue.

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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful By Roald Euller on June 7, 2011
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is a recent translation from German of a book originally published in 2007.

While this book is explicitly a history of climate, the author keeps a steady focus on the implications of the historical narrative for the present debate on global warming, about which he has some interesting thoughts.

The book naturally falls into two parts. The first several chapters cover climate history from the origins of the earth 4.6 billion years ago through the present. This is a decent overview although might be a little succinct if this is one's first encounter with this material. The charts and graphs do a good job of supporting the text. Behringer takes pains to point out that the earth is currently in the midst of a several million year long ice age characterized by 100,000 year cycles of glaciation alternating with shorter and warmer interglacials. At present we are getting towards the end of an interglacial, and all other things being equal, we should expect the onset of a new period of glaciation within a few thousand years.

The book devotes more time to the period since the last glacial maximum (LGM) then to the preceding periods, but this is consistent with the book's intended focus on human cultural response to changing climate. There is considerable material on the rise of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, and the impact of climate - particularly droughts - on their various crises and collapses. The book then continues through Roman times, the Middle Ages and up to the present. There is interesting material on German archeological sites reflecting the author's nationality. I had not seen much of this material before.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By Kirialax on December 29, 2011
Format: Paperback
The premise of 'A Cultural History of Climate' is that Earth's climate is in a constant state of flux over very long periods, and that these changes lead to adaptation or destruction of life in particular ecosystems. However, the real focus of the book is on the influence of climate on human society and how it affects what we eat, wear, and how willing we are to rise up against governments. It must be pointed out that despite Behringer's obvious focus on the climate, he remains a good historian. The philosophical issues behind historical causation are complex and Behringer is too careful to blame climate for every major upheaval in world history although he does an excellent job in making such connections while never going too far with them. This is, perhaps, the greatest strength of this book besides the enthralling translation, as Behringer makes an extremely convincing case that weather patterns have played a role in many major transitions throughout human history. This is very important because too often such things are ignored by historians in favour of the historical data immediately available in their primary sources, and weather does not receive as much attention in such things as it should, especially after this book's publication.

Behringer's runs through the entire history of earth, but the main focus of this book is on human history, starting with the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago when the climate became less amenable to hunter-gatherer societies through the present day. He brings his audience through the "Roman optimum" to the cooling off in the late antiquity and the early middle ages, although this section is a little spartan. No doubt that lack of contemporary source material compared to the later periods is the cause of this.
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Format: Paperback
Quick service and item as described. Would recommend and use this provider again.
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0 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Curt on February 17, 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I found this book to be overly detailed and very boring. If you make it to the end you will discover that the author is just another climate change advocate.
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