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Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century Hardcover – April 30, 2013
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Top Customer Reviews
Even by the turbulent standards of human history, the 17th century was a particularly deadly period. While no one can know for certain, its plausible that somewhere between a quarter and a third of humanity in Eurasia perished prematurely across the 17th century. Famine, disease, and a great deal of prolonged conflict characterized the 17th century. This includes such well known events as the 30 Years War in Europe and the Ming-Qing transition in China. Parker describes 5 interacting features that drove the disasters of the 17th century. This is the period of the Little Ice Age (LIA), which resulted in diminished agricultural output and frequent harvest failures across the globe. Parker points out that the relatively benign 16th century had seen considerable population growth putting greater numbers of people at risk for subsistence crises. Important interacting human factors were the growth across Eurasia of states powerful enough to support substantial and destructive armies but not powerful or rich enough to produce centralized states that could mitigate the environmental and military challenges of the period.Read more ›
Much of this story has been told before either in works focusing on individual areas, or as a whole.
The premise underlying this retelling is that harsh and unusual weather/climate had a greater role in triggering the political upheaval than heretofore appreciated.
There is no doubt that the climate was severe based on historical records and observations, and that it resulted in famine, population decrease etc.
It's a little less clear to what extent the climate triggered the political events. The author interjects the climatic variables into the historical story and suggests they played a role but at times it's not clear whether the climatic effects were causal, correlated, or simply co-existed.
So we hear that cold, heat, drought, floods played into the historical events, but in some instances they are interjected into the currency of the events, which is no more meaningful than to acknowledge that while the unusually early and cold winter halted Napolean's and Hitler's attempt to conquer Russia, that the winters were in any way causal of their invasions rather than correlated or co-existent.
In most cases the author attempts to find and indicate causality but the lines do get blurred as to what was causal or coincidental, as the book repeatedly interject into the narrative that 'it was the coldest, hottest, driest, wettest' etc,; points out the disruption and famine that was undoubtedly caused by these changes and infers theeir connections as causative cause rather than an harsh but co-existent modifier of the events.Read more ›
My one problem is that Dr. Parker does not really prove a case that climate caused the revolutions and wars. He stops a bit short of saying it did. He correlates wars and rebellions with the horrible climate events of the Little Ice Age, but--in a particularly good section of the book--notes that the awful climate events continued well into the 18th century, but the wars didn't. In fact, the 18th century begat the Enlightenment, partly in reaction to all those wars in the 17th. So, in fact, climate problems sometimes go with wars and sometimes go with revolutions and sometimes with neither one. Not much hope of causal chains there.
In some cases, the wars were predictable long before the climate turned bad. The Ming Dynasty's survival till 1644 was a still-unexplained miracle; it was rotten and tottering by 1550 (or even 1500) and would surely have fallen in the 17th century, climate or no. The religious wars of Europe were also a long time coming; they started in the 1200s with the Albigensian Crusade and got steadily more serious as Protestantism appeared. The climax in the 17th century was fairly predictable.
So, how much does climate explain? It certainly made people more desperate. It certainly displaced millions, and displaced people have much less vested interest in peace than stably located ones. We will need a lot more studies.
Of course, Parker is writing with an eye to our current period of rapid climatic change. I expect that we will see either lots of wars or lots of action to stop climate change. Possibly both. Dr. Parker provides a scary scenario of what might happen (again).
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Great read for those interested in seventeenth century history and how it relates to some of the issues of today.Published 7 months ago by M. Conant
I ordered the book because its title implied that the main subject was how climate changes effected human societies in past eras. Read morePublished 7 months ago by Edward R. Lilley
A Treasure Trove of Historical Data. Ordered the paper version to be able to read the maps and old illustrationsPublished 7 months ago by Jennsdad
This book is a great, marvelously chaotic storm of unleashed scholarship, which is badly in need of editorial re-engineering. Read morePublished 8 months ago by Erik Peterson
Comprehensive and very readable, Global Crisis has kept me interested and filled countless gaps in my knowledge. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Richard Mac
Superb! Provides deep and convincing evidence of beep to cope pro-actively with increasing real mounting frequency of natural disasters from many causes (such as: volcanic... Read morePublished 15 months ago by Lucien B.
OK, so I haven't started reading it yet, but the jacket is awesomePublished 15 months ago by LED Guy
It's a good and very interesting book which I can recommend to all lovers of historic booksPublished 16 months ago by Bjorn Steenberg