Climate History Network

A network of interdisciplinary scholars studying past climate change

Workshop Update: Famines During the ‘Little Ice Age’ (1300-1800)

SparrenburgOn February 19th, interdisciplinary scholars will meet at the Zentrum für Interdisziplinäre Forschung in Bielefeld, to discuss relationships between early modern famine and climatic cooling. The official workshop announcement follows:

Global climate change has put famines back on the agenda. The predicted rise of extreme weather raises the question, how similar events were met in historical societies. However, such studies are challenged by disciplinary constraints. Famines occur at the interface of nature and culture. They involve both the bio-physical as well as the social sphere. Their entanglement highlights the co-evolvement of natural environment and social actions. This broad socio-ecological character extends beyond the reach of individual disciplines. As a result, popular references to the dramatic impact of famines during the premodern era are often based on conjectures.

The workshop will bring together researchers from the natural and social sciences as well as the humanities. With reference to recent interdisciplinary concepts (disaster studies, vulnerability studies, environmental history) it will examine, how the dominant opposition of natural and cultural factors can be overcome. Such an integrated approach includes the “archives of nature” as well as “archives of man”.

In this way, deterministic models can be tested and replaced with a dynamic, historicising approach to the events. During the discussion we are seeking answers to the following topics:

– Which data, sources and case studies can make integrative approaches work?

– Which concepts and research designs overcome both climatically and culturally deterministic models?

– How can we improve our understanding of the entanglement and co-development of environment and society as well as the cultural consequences of extreme natural impacts?

– How can we uncover the complex historical perceptions, interpretations and coping strategies?



9:00 Welcome addresses and introduction

I. Research Approaches and Designs

9:30 Ulf Büntgen (Zürich): A tree-ring perspective on ‘Little Ice Age’ summer temperature variability

9:50 Katrin Moeller (Halle): Halle und die Hungerkrise von 1805. Ein Plädoyer für neue Krisenmodelle in der wirtschaftshistorischen Forschung der Vormoderne / Halle and the famine of 1805. New models for early modern economic history

10:20 Christian Jörg (Tübingen): Forgotten crises of the medieval warm period. Researching famines of the High Middle Ages

10:40 Coffee break

11:15 Jürg Luterbacher (Gießen): From proxies to integrated, statistically based ‘Little Ice Age’ climate reconstructions and potential for past famine studies

11:35 Discussion

12:00 Lunch break

II. European Famines

14:00 Heli Huhtamaa (Bern/Joensuu): Exploring climate-driven food crises in Finland during the Little Ice Age with written and dendroclimatological evidence

14:20 Francis Ludlow (New Haven): Dynamics of extreme weather, Subsistence crises and violent conflict in medieval Ireland

14:40 Rudolf Brazdil (Brno): Famines in the Czech Lands during the ‘Little Ice Age’

15:00 Guido Alfani (Milano): Italian famines: An overview (ca.1250-1800)

15:30 Coffee break

16:00 Bruce Campbell (Belfast): Climate and disease: The famine of1346-7 and near-famine of 1349-52

16:20 Discussion

18:00 Evening lecture:

Andrea Fadani (Ulm): Hunger remembrance in a museological context: Any linkage to environmental changes?


III. Global perspectives and coping strategies

9:30 Vinita Damodaran (Sussex): Climate signals, environment and livelihoods in seventeenth and eighteenth century India

9:50 Andrea De Vincenti (Zürich): Educationalizing hunger. Perceptions of the famine of 1771/72 in Zurich and coping strategies

10:10 Steven Serels (Berlin): Reconstructing patterns of human-environment interaction and collective organization in the African Red Sea World at the end of the ‘Little Ice Age`

10:30 Discussion

11:00 Coffee break

11:30 Kathrin Pindl (Regensburg): Crises and strategies of subsistence in pre-modern Regensburg. Hospital grain accounts as sources for economic history

11:50 Andreas Rüther (Bielefeld): Theory of migration vs. colonization thesis? Concurrent concepts and multiple models of medieval eastward expansion

12:30 Lunch break

14:00 Jessica Dijkman (Utrecht): Coping with food shortages in the village of Berkel (Holland), late 16th – early 19th century

14:20 Discussion

14:45 Final discussion

15:15 End of conference


About D Degroot

I am an assistant professor of environmental history at Georgetown University. My research explores flexibility and resilience in the face of climate change across the early modern world. I am the co-administrator of the Climate History Network, and the administrator of For more about my work, visit

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This entry was posted on January 22, 2015 by in Events and Meetings, In the News.
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