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.

Monday 19 February 2024

Extreme weather

I recently wrote about the Thames Frost Fairs in The Thames Frost Fair 1683-84 - one of a kind

In that piece I drew attention to both previous eras of bad winters and frozen rivers, and of our somewhat varying knowledge and memory of them.

Subsequently I came upon an article published in 2015 in History Extra which looks at recorded historic instances of extreme weather conditions. Some of them make even extremes which have occurred relatively recently such as the winters of 1947,1963, and 1979 or the hot summers of 1975 and, even more, of 1976, and the record high temperatures of 2022 which have entered our immediate folk memory, look decidedly tame. In part that is because modern technology gives us the means to circumvent or mitigate situations which in previous centuries would have been far more difficult to deal with. Even more so than when the article was published are we aware of changes in our climate and equally to look at historical parallels. It may be that we shall become accustomed to the greater ranges in the weather that our ancestors experienced, and had to live with and adapt to.

Such events were not isolated but had a real impact on contemporary events. Christopher Duffy’s splendid history of the 1745-6 Jacobite rising Fight for a Throne: The Jacobite’45 Reconsiddred cites early meteorological records and points out that the Jacobites marching south through Cumberland to Lancashire and ultimately Derbyshire and their opponents the Hanoverian troops in Yorkshire did not engage with each other because snow in the Pennines literally prevented them reaching each other. The detachment of  Hanoverian troops who did manage to cross the Pennines via Blackstone Edge were seen as epic voyagers.

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