The ambition of his new book is astonishing and the range of research is almost impossible to believe.
Two very strange things happened during the 17th century. First, ‘the Earth experienced some of the coldest weather recorded in over a millennium’ and into the bargain there was no shortage of drought and famine. Second, people around the globe became decidedly revolutionary. Political turbulence (or the threat thereof) blighted places as far flung as Ming China, Spain, Russia, the Ottoman Empire, India, Scandinavia, the Dutch Republic and Britain.
Was there a link between these phenomena? Parker cautions against becoming a climatic determinist and he isn’t in the business of identifying neat and tidy causality, but his book makes one wonder if there was some ‘fatal synergy’ between natural and human chaos between 1618 and the 1680s. Bad weather and lousy harvests rarely put people in a good mood, especially in places plagued by warfare or lacking in competent political authority.
Later, Parker attempts to compare past and present climate concerns. This is less appealing. Parker is better at being a historian.
GLOBAL CRISIS: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century by Geoffrey Parker, Yale, £29.99