Weather anomalies and climatic change in late medieval Hungary : identifying environmental impacts
By András Vadas
MA Thesis, Central European University, 2010
Abstract: This thesis examines weather events in the late medieval Hungarian Kingdom. There are two focus points in the investigation: tracing the weather events of the 1310s based on charter evidence and narrative sources – non-contemporary narratives from the Hungarian Kingdom, annals and chronicles from neighboring countries – and studying long-term climatic processes of the same region as reflected in historical maps. After discussing the main trends of climate history of the last millennium in Western and Central Europe, the discussion turns to the knowledge about the climatic processes of the Hungarian Kingdom based on historical data, scientific research, and archaeological remains.
As one case study, I give a detailed analysis of the sources relating to the environmental crisis in the 1310s in the Hungarian Kingdom. Although a small number of sources note floods, environmental problems or famines, they still provide a basis for supposing that the European-scale environmental crisis of this decade reached the Carpathian Basin as well as most of the territories of Central Europe: Austria, Bohemia, and the Polish territories. Perambulation charters in the period 1301–1330 are used to discuss the seasonality of legal processes and their connection to weather conditions. Based on the monthly distribution of perambulation charters it is likely that the weather greatly influenced the feasibility of perambulations. Based on this sample I infer that a deeper analysis of perambulation processes will allow some characteristics of the climate of the Carpathian Basin to be better understood.
The last part of the thesis discussing Early Modern maps which show the southern part of the Great Hungarian Plain. This plains area can be well studied to follow the main tendencies in water level as the region formerly had a dense hydrography (before water regulation). Maps from the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries show abrupt changes of climate and in some cases these maps combined with medieval texts can be used to reconstruct medieval environmental conditions. The thesis on the one hand shows that it is possible to discuss long-term climatic processes and weather events (especially weather anomalies) in late medieval Hungary. Analysis of the text of charters could provide significant knowledge about the weather and the climate of the Middle Ages and important results may be concluded by the thorough examination of historical maps.