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I required this book for an Astronomy class in university. Although it was a mandatory reading for school, I enjoyed the content very much. It was very well written, and depicted the climate through history extremely well. I was left with a knowledge of how climate has changed over time here on Earth, and how the changes have affected humans and other animals. You are sure to be amazed as you read. I still have this well written book in my home bookcase. If you would like to learn about the historical climate events that occurred between years 1300 and 1850, then this is the book for you to read.
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on March 10, 2003
The Little Ice Age is an examination of the effects of the five hundred year long period from 1300 to 1800, when Europe suffered through a period of intense and unstable weather. Fagan does not blame every historical incident on the NAO, or North Atlantic Oscillation, but does make a good case that fluctuations in the NAO have intensified the effects of such disparate incidents as the Black Death epidemic, the Irish potato famine, the Great Fire of London, and many other events. Fagan also does a good job of pointing out that we are presently living in an apparent warm spell, intensified by the greenhouse effect, and helps us recognize the potential for sudden, perhaps catastrophic change in our weather systems. I'm amazed by the amount of research Fagan did in tracking the rise and fall of glaciers and the paths of five hundred year old storms. A great read which will help you recognize the delicate balance of our global weather systems.
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on October 8, 2001
The pleasures of this book are anecdotal, not scientific. This is a stew of interesting geologic research and weather-related historical reveries without a convincing scientific framework. Although the book attempts to connect long range weather trends [in this instance, chill] with historical-political consequences, the author really succeeds in making the case that weather episodes are much more problematic than centuries-long trends. If anything, the reader is relieved of a fear of climactic Armageddon, as most of the weather catastrophes described by the author would be ameliorated today by better forecasting. And after several hundred pages of the evils of cold weather, the closing chapter on Global Warming appears as a welcomed friend.
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on May 23, 2017
Very well. I got it in the mail and it came in a nice case which I enjoyed. I love the feel and how heavy it is. When I got it, I immediately washed it and tested it out and it cut through some peppers like butter. I really liked it. my family need it , Received as described. fast shipping.
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on April 16, 2003
Brian Fagan claims that "we can now track the Little Ice Age as an intricate tapestry of short-term climatic shifts that rippled through European society during times of remarkable change - seven centuries that saw Europe emerge from medieval fiefdom and pass by stages through the Renaissance, the Age of Discovery, the Enlightenment, the French and Industrial revolutions, and the making of modern Europe."
The interesting question is to what extent did these climatic shifts alter the course of European history?
In some distinct cases, in my opinion, the answer is quite clear-cut. Norse settlement in Greenland, for example, became impossible because of the cooler temperatures after the 13th century. Famine in rural areas throughout the Middle Ages was also an undisputed consequence of sudden weather shifts. The damage done to the Spanish Armada in 1588 by two savage storms is patently climatic in origin, too.
In most cases, however, the climate is just one - mostly minor - factor out of many that contributed to the occurrence of major historical events like the French Revolution, for example. Fagan rightly calls climatic change "a subtle catalyst." Finally, if we look at historical developments that unfolded over centuries - like the Renaissance or the making of modern Europe - the influence of the climate does not explain anything.
A book like Fagan's "The Little Ice Age" is most interesting for historians who examine grass roots history, such as the daily lives of farmers and fishermen in the Middle Ages. At first I thought the climate would provide answers for economic historians, too. But as Fagan shows, the human response to deteriorating weather differs widely from region to region. The conservative French farmers stuck to growing wheat, which is notably intolerant of heavy rainfall, whereas English and Dutch farmers diversified their crop (and became much less vulnerable to bad weather). The weather alone does not explain this development. Obviously, an economic historian who is interested in the question "why are people better off in this country (or region, society, etc.) than elsewhere?" has to look to other factors than the weather when he seeks for answers.
So far, the climate has been a footnote in World History. Nonetheless, this footnote can be quite interesting, as "The Little Ice Age" shows. The book is divided into four parts. Part One describes the Medieval Warm Period, roughly from 900 to 1200. Parts Two and Three describe how people reacted to the cooling weather, and how devastating climatic changes are for societies whose agriculture is at subsistence level. Part Four covers the end of the Little Ice Age and the sustained warming of modern times. All four parts make for fascinating, sometimes even disturbing reading; and for the reader new to the field Fagan offers the basic explanations of the effects of oceanic currents and air pressure on the climate in Europe.
Bottom line: A good introduction to the subject aimed at the general reading public. It largely exploits earlier literature on the subject, however. And while asking very broad questions, the book bases its answers on a narrow range of data mostly pertaining to northern Europe.
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on April 17, 2002
Since I had found Brian Fagan's book Floods, Famines and Emperors very thought provoking, I decided to read his more recent book The Little Ice Age: How Climate Made History, 1300-1850. I was not disappointed.
Professor Fagan carries on a tradition (which he freely admits was discredited in the past but is now enjoying a renaissance because of newer information) of viewing history through the eyes of a paleoclimatologist. Much of what he had said in the earlier text, namely that many of mankind's major social and cultural transitions have been climate and weather driven, made a good deal of sense to me. Episodes such as the Sea People's invasion of the ancient Levant with the ultimate collapse of the Hittite empire and the reduction of the Egyptian during the late second millennium B.C.E. have long been thought to have been the result of droughts experienced in northern Europe. Similarly the demise of the Moche in Peru, of the Mayan civilizations in Middle America, and of the pueblo cultures in the Southwestern US are believed to have been the result of el Nino/la Nina weather changes, massive rains in the case of the Moche and severe drought in the latter two cases. Although no one would say that any of these historic human changes occurred purely in response to climate, it is abundantly apparent that the economic impact of especially prolonged climate changes on large subsistence level populations tend to leave the more inflexible social systems at great risk.
The earlier book described the probable role of el Nino/ la Nina cycles on world climate, while more briefly discussing the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) and it's effects. It was also concerned with much earlier cultures. The current book discusses the North Atlantic Oscillation in much greater detail and outlines it's specific effects on the climate and social environment of Europe and North America during more recent times. The material is dealt with in a very clear manner and was not difficult to understand even with my average person's more casual understanding of weather and climate.
Because the history is of events in more recent time, especially in the last half of the book, the narrative clearly has greater implications for the modern reader than the earlier book does. The Irish potato famine, for instance, was an event of great social significance whose impact on the modern politics in the United Kingdom and on the population demographics of the United States and Australia continues to this day. Certainly pertinent is the lesson of the political upheavals suffered by European governments in the 18th and 19th centuries. Those that ignored the precariousness of the lives experienced by the bulk of their population, choosing to do little or nothing to alleviate their suffering during famines, did so at their own peril. Those that refused to improve their management of their agricultural and natural environment also suffered more acutely. Even now as over half of the world's population suffers from hunger, poor sanitation, little or no health care, and a growing sense of hopelessness, the governments and people of the developed world face similar challenges and choices. Dealing with the inequities and injustices has now grown from a national to a global scale, but ignoring them could easily have the same consequences as it did for the upper and lower classes of the nascent nations. Similarly, the degeneration of the environment through overpopulation and mismanagement is looming large on our international horizon and can not be ignored for much longer.
My only complaint is that the last half of the book is riddled with dates to the point of distraction. I realize that accuracy is much to be appreciated when it comes to historic events, but in this case "before" and "after," "earlier" or "later" might have been perfectly adequate. I found that as long as I was aware of the general character of the times, its historic personalities and events, I could ignore the dates without being too misled as to time frame. I am aware that individuals like Eric the Red and Lief Erickson were not contemporary with Louis the XVI or Napoleon but that Thomas Jefferson was, etc. Someone less familiar with the events of history might find the dates more helpful.
I would definitely recommend this book for anyone interested in climatology, paleoclimatology, social change, and early modern history. For those with an interest in earlier cultures, I'd suggest Fagin's previous book Floods, Famines and Emperors
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on March 15, 2001
In this fascinating book, Professor Fagan introduces something of a climactic history of Europe. The first chapter covers the Medieval Warm Period of 900 to 1300 AD, when Greenland supported a thriving dairy-producing economy, and when French vintners sought protection against the import of fine English wines! Also sprinkled through the book are references to a Mini-Ice Age that extended from 500 to 900 AD, and an earlier warm period extending from 100 to 400 AD.
The second chapter chronicles the traumatic ordeal that Europe experienced as the planet cooled and weather took on new, harsher patterns. The author then continues on to document the tribulations of Little Ice Age Europe, and the changes that the new environment spurred. In the final chapter, the end of the Little Ice Age is covered, along with the author's thoughts on Global Warming.
This book is absolutely fascinating. Most history books do not mention the climate, except as background. Professor Fagan, on the other hand, rightly shows how the climate can be a major factor. The book is easily read (and not academic in tone), and very informative.
I must admit that this book has changed some of my opinions on Global Warming, and given me a great deal to think about. I am fascinated by the apparent yo-yoing of global temperatures throughout history, and hope to find a book that looks at the subject over a longer timeframe. This is a great book, and I recommend it to everyone.
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on March 20, 2001
Major climatic events impact history. Most of the time the impacts are short lived although severe at the time, e.g. the class 4 and 5 hurricanes that batter the U.S. Rare are the events that though short lived, have long term consequences, e.g. the bitter winters that contributed to Napoleon's and Hitler's ill-fated invasions of Russia. Or the storms that sank the Spanish Armada. Rarer still are climatic events that are themselves long-lived and have profound historical repercussions for human societies. Brian Fagan has now produced two books about these latter type of events - an earlier book about the impacts of el Nino, and the present book on the period of intense cold that gripped Europe and much of the rest of the world for about a 500 year period that ended in the middle of the 19th century. Although the writing occasionally appears hasty, or to suffer from rather incomplete editing, this is a story well told. Fagan draws upon extensive historical documents, both formal and informal, to describe the impact of a climate that not only was on average somewhat colder than that of the 20th century, but also highly variable. Indeed, the often rapid and large swings in temperature and rainfall appear to have had a severer effect on human societies than the cold itself. After all, once you know that it is going to be colder or hotter than average - and stay that way - you can take appropriate measures (at least within certain limits). But wide and unpredictable swings in temperature and precipitation can have devastating effects. Fagan is able to convey these effects in a very personal way. Fagan concludes with thoughts on the potential effects of the present global warming.
An excellent book which examines the effects of climate on civilizations but over a much longer period and in a more quantitative fashion than does Fagan is the 2nd edition (1995) of H. H. Lamb's "Climate History and the Modern World".
One need not have taken sides in the "climate debate" that is ongoing to enjoy reading this book and come away with a greater understanding of how human populations react to environmental stress. Although Fagan clearly sides with the growing number of scientists who think that global warming is primarily being forced by anthropogenic causes (e.g. emission of greenhouse gases), in this book he has presented some exciting narrative history on a topic that is often neglected.
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on November 8, 2001
A disappointing book about a very interesting subject. In places the book is well-written (The Year Without a Summer, An Ghorta Mor), but overall it is rather spotty. It is not good history or good science. It is rather a hodgepodge of historical recollections that are necessarily sparse prior to the 17th century. The book claims to recount the Little Ice Age (1300 - 1850), but spends more than a modest amount of verbage on the Medieval Warm Period and the Modern Greenhouse. Perhaps a portion of the subtitle 'How Climate Made History' would have been a more honest title that reflects the authors primary thesis (climate has an important influence on human history!).

Scientifically, he does a reasonable job of explaining the North Atlantic Oscilation (NAO) and the great ocean conveyor as indicators/mechanisms of abrupt climate shifts. However, this said, the reasoning used by the author to connect human accounts with climate phenomena is not tight, in point of fact, it is rather flaky. In general, the book lacks useful graphs to show climate (temperature, rainfall) fluctuations particularly during the period of modern record-keeping when this information is readily available.
In the end, I get the authors point...CLIMATE MAKES HISTORY!!!, but I am not convinced of this by any effective evidence-based connection. Heavy recollection + Lite science is a bad formula for literary success.
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on December 1, 2001
This is an ultimately disappointing look at a fascinating topic. Fagan is an interesting writer & one has no problem being drawn into the story initially, but then one starts wondering whether the trip is going to be worthwhile after all. The book is sprinkled with maps which definitely help clarify the author's points, but maybe it is the scientist in me that would have been happier with some charts with data. One response to this might be "Hey, its history not science" but then we get into the history and almost immediately we get into trouble, Right in the first chapter Fagan invokes the Treaty of Verdun as a codification of European order, then in the next sentence he says "Only the Pope and the Emperor in Constantinople were exempt from this stricture..." Well, yes,The Emperor WOULD have been exempt as would his entire Empire -Byzantine Constantinople wasn't ever part of Charlemagne's Holy Roman Empire either spiritually or politically & last time I checked the Treay of Verdun was essentially Charlemagne's heirs in the West splitting up their patrimony.... A trivial point, of concern only to specialists? I think not, I am a biologist not a historian, but if the author makes this sort of egregious blunder at the outset, how can we trust him later on? A real pity, as IF one could trust the author with the facts this would have been a great book for the interested undergrad or educated lay reader, but as it is I can't really endorse it.
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