How did climate change influence Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Revision as of 12:13, 3 November 2018 by Maltaweel (talk | contribs) (Early Medieval Europe and Climate)

Our changing climate shows many examples where it altered and shaped history. Climate is not a deterministic process but it does create the conditions people must adjust their lives to. This leads to societies and cultures that adapt or reflect the climatic conditions prevalent in an area. This is the case as well in Europe, where we see changing opportunities and challenges for Medieval and Early Modern European societies as climate changed.

Early Medieval Europe and Climate

Soon after the fall of the Roman Empire and emergence of early European kingdoms and societies, the climate during this time mostly appeared to be colder and wetter than conditions today. Flooding in rivers seemed more intense during the 500-600s. Between 500-900 CE, glaciers were expanding in the Alps and other northerly regions of Europe such as Scandinavia. In northern Europe, agriculture is often on the margins, where crops can be grown in what today would be a typical year during the summer months. However, increased persistence of cloudy weather, a large amount of rain, and generally colder conditions could lead to increased crop failures during the summer months. This has led some scholars to believe at least some of the Norse and Dane movements, who we call the Vikings, occurred due to climate stress, where it became more difficult for agriculture to be successful, leading to increased dependence on raiding or settling new lands. During this time, large waves of Vikings landed in Europe, including in France, Britain, and areas south of Denmark. Some Viking travelers went even further into Russia and Mediterranean regions.

While cooler conditions may have forced some migrations to occur in the early Medieval period that forever shaped the history of regions such as Britain and France, at around 950-1250 CE, climate began to take a warmer turn. This period is known for population increases. Cities and trade began to flourish at a greater rate in this period. Wine was even made in northern Europe

Areas previously not inhabited significantly, such as Greenland, now became an area for long-lived Norse colonies. Famous Norse explorers such as Erik the Red in the late 10th century named Greenland as such because they wanted to convince others that it was a good area to settle. Climate studies have suggested conditions may have been warmer at this time than even modern conditions or even similar. Erik the Red and his descendants and later explorers visited lands they called the the land of forests and land of wine, which could have been in reference to North America such as areas in Labrador and Newfoundland. The settlement of L'Anse aux Meadows, in Newfoundland, represents the clearest evidence of Norse settlement in North America. The Norse also began to trade with Native American groups such as the Beothuk and Thule. However, by around 1400 things seemed to have died out and settlements in Greenland and North America were abandoned by the Norse.

Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe and Climate

Changing Culture