Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century

Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century
Published : 1 Apr 2013 - Yale University Press
Revolutions, droughts, famines, invasions, wars, regicides, government collapses - the calamities of the mid-seventeenth century were unprecedented in both frequency and extent. The effects of what historians call the "General Crisis" extended from England to Japan, from the Russian Empire to sub-Saharan Africa. The Americas, too, did not escape the turbulence of the time. In this meticulously researched volume, master historian Geoffrey Parker presents the firsthand testimony of men and women who saw and suffered from the sequence of political, economic, and social crises between 1618 to the late 1680s. Parker also deploys the scientific evidence of climate change during this period. His discoveries revise entirely our understanding of the General Crisis: changes in prevailing weather patterns, especially longer winters and cooler and wetter summers, disrupted growing seasons and destroyed harvests. This in turn brought hunger, malnutrition, and disease; and as material conditions worsened, wars, rebellions, and revolutions rocked the world. The fatal synergy caused by the crisis killed perhaps one-third of the world's human population. Parker's demonstration of the link between climate change, war, and catastrophe 350 years ago stands as an extraordinary historical achievement. And the implications of his study are equally important: are we adequately prepared - or even preparing - for the catastrophes that climate change brings?


One of the books I found most informative and most perversely enjoyable this year is Geoffrey Parker's 'Global Crisis'. It deserves, and rewards, careful reading.

Jane Smiley, Harper's

Parker's book is not merely powerful and convincing, it is a monument to scholarly dedication.

Dominic Sandbrook, Sunday Times

(A) thumping good read with a contemporary moral

Jan de Vries

This history is told with a sustained gusto by Parker but, amid the horror of the torture chamber and the woeful depredations of war and famine, it is the contemporary significance of the book that is truly breathtaking.

Hugh Macdonald, Glasgow Herald

In his monumental new book, Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century, distinguished historian Geoffrey Parker also investigates the idea that there might be a close relationship between global unrest and unusually inclement weather... it matters that the purpose of the almost overwhelming bulk of evidence that Parker has assembled in this impressive new book is designed to be the last word in the general crisis debate.

Lisa Jardine, Financial Times