Once I was a clever boy learning the arts of Oxford... is a quotation from the verses written by Bishop Richard Fleming (c.1385-1431) for his tomb in Lincoln Cathedral. Fleming, the founder of Lincoln College in Oxford, is the subject of my research for a D. Phil., and, like me, a son of the West Riding. I have remarked in the past that I have a deeply meaningful on-going relationship with a dead fifteenth century bishop... it was Fleming who, in effect, enabled me to come to Oxford and to learn its arts, and for that I am immensely grateful.

Wednesday, 3 November 2021

Medieval climate and famine - the experience of London

With the current COP26 meeting in Glasgow we have had a lot of background information about the likely effects of climate change, both now and in the potential future. With that information and indeed the threat it reveals it is not surprising that attention has also been drawn to past experiences of such change.

So the Medievalists.net site has an article about the effects of serious famine in London and its environs in 1258 and 1315-17, citing chronicle accounts of what happened. This is linked to other evidence to both explain the changing weather pattern and to understand its effects. So ‘the year without a summer’ that was 1258 came after several years of poor harvests, compounded by a massive volcanic eruption in what is now Indonesia. This was comparable to that of Mount Tambora, which produced another ‘year without a summer’ in 1816, and whose dust created the spectacular sunsets captured in some of Turner’s paintings.

The article can be read at Famine in Medieval London

There is more about this, drawing upon recent interdisciplinary research, which I have cited before, about some of the wider European context of climate changes of the early fourteenth century at Drought of the century in the Middle Ages—with parallels to climate change today?

It is interesting to reflect the 1258 and the middle years of the reign of King Edward II, as well as events in, for example, Scotland, Ireland and France were also years of political upheaval. Scarcity or near absence of food increased no doubt the political, if not the physical, temperature, just as did the severe weather in France in the winter of 1788-89.

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