Climatic and environmental aspects of the Mongol withdrawal from Hungary in 1242 CE

A wet and cold period followed upon a few warm and dry years. The interplay of various environmental factors may have led the Mongolians to the decision to withdraw from Hungary. Red line: Summer temperatures derived from tree-rings in the Alps and Carpathians. Green and brown shades indicate soil moisture in 1242 CE. (Graphic: Ulf Büntgen/WSL)

The Mongol invasion of Eastern Europe, and especially its sudden withdrawal from Hungary in 1242 CE, has generated much speculation and an array of controversial theories. None of them, however, considered multifaceted environmental drivers and the coupled analysis of historical reports and natural archives.

Historical evolution of forest management in Europe and in Japan

The forest in the black fog by Claudia Dea

This paper describes in brief the historical evolution of forest management in Europe and in Japan and the motivations of these changes. In particular, the paper analyses three periods: pre-industrial (from the Middle-ages until the mid-17th century), industrial (from the mid-17th until the mid-20th century) and the post-industrial period (from the late-20th century until today)

Researchers discover a ‘Little Ice Age’ in the 6th century

Summer temperatures were reconstructed from tree rings in the Russian Altai (red) and the European Alps (blue). Horizontal bars, shadings and stars refer to major plague outbreaks, rising and falling empires, large-scale human migrations, and political turmoil.  Image by Past Global Changes International Project Office

‘This was the most dramatic cooling in the Northern Hemisphere in the past 2000 years.’

Flood Security in the Medieval and Early Modern North Sea Area: A Question of Entitlement?

North Sea region in a 16th century map of Europe by Abraham Ortelius

All over the North Sea Area the later Middle Ages saw repeated flood disasters and massive land losses in coastal wetlands: in England, the Low Countries, Northern Germany and Southern Scandinavia thousands of hectares of reclaimed land and hundreds of villages were lost to the sea.

The 1356 Basel earthquake: an interdisciplinary revision

Destruction of the city Basel, depicted in Sebastian Münster's Cosmographia

The 1356 Basel earthquake is well known as one of the most damaging events in intra-plate Europe within historical times. It was one of several devastating catastrophes in the 14th century.

10 Natural Disasters that Struck the Medieval World

Medieval image of an earthquake, with ruins and fallen stars, and the dead in holes. British Library MS Royal 19 B XV   f. 11v

Here are ten of the most important natural disasters that took place in the Middle Ages.

Tornadoes in Mediaeval Britain

Tornado - Photo Credit: OAR/ERL/National Severe Storms Laboratory (NSSL).

Mediaeval chronicles describe 21 tornadoes in Britain prior to the year 1500. Although the meanings of some of the accounts appear unclear at first sight, the features reported can nearly always be explained by reference to modern tornado cases.

Climate Change and Medieval Sacred Architecture

Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris - photo by Giorgos Vintzileos / Flickr

This study attempts to provide illustrations of how climate may have influenced architectural features during the Middle Ages.

‘The Worst Disaster Suffered by the People of Scotland in Recorded History’: Climate Change, Dearth and Pathogens in the Long Fourteenth Century

16th century map of Scotland

It is not the aim of this essay to provide an environmental history of medieval Scotland or even just of the fourteenth century in Scotland; that is a much larger task than can be addressed here. Rather, the intention is to explore the nature of the evidence that is available within the documentary record and place it alongside the various forms of proxy data for climate history to produce a synthetic narrative.

Of Wilderness, Forest, and Garden: An Eco-Theory of Genre in Middle English Literature

British Library : Cotton Nero A.x f. 129v

I posit that the components of the environment play a role in the deployment of the narrative by shaping the characters and influencing the action.

The Power of Poo: Waste and the Medieval Environment

17th century map of London

This study will compare the ways in which three vastly different European cities and their civic institutions, London England – the Chartered Capital of a Kingdom, Siena Italy – an Oligarchic Republic, and Gdansk Poland – the reluctant territory of a Theocratic state

A Medieval Weather Report

medieval weather - photo by AvidlyAbide / Flickr

What was England’s weather like 746 years ago?

Arthur Pendragon, Eco-Warrior

Arthur Uther Pendragon standing outside of the Stonehenge monument fence - Photo by Chris Brown / Wikipedia

This essay explores the environmental agendas and ambitions that motivate John Timothy Rothwell, ‘a mad biker chieftain wielding an axe,’ who, claiming to be a ‘post-Thatcher’ King Arthur,

Medievalist helps scientists rewrite climate records

Eruption of the Etna volcano, March 2 1669, seen from the east with Catania

In a paper published in the world-leading scientific journal, Nature, Dr Conor Kostick’s research into medieval evidence for climate events has allowed scientists to pinpoint the exact relationship between historical volcanic activity and severe winters.

Explaining Extreme Weather in the Middle Ages

Halleys comet 1456

What was causing extreme weather in the Middle Ages? A medieval historian is starting to examine how chroniclers and writers from this period were turning to the night sky to better understand and perhaps prevent natural disasters.

Avalanches in the Middle Ages

Avalanches in the Middle Ages - photo by Scientif38/ Wikicommons

One of the dangers a medieval traveller might face when crossing through mountainous terrain is the threat of avalanches.

Trees in the Middle Ages

British Library Royal 14 E III f. 128

What did medieval people think of trees? Here are a few observations about the role trees played in the spiritual and cultural life of the Middle Ages.

Ore, Fire, Hammer, Sickle: Iron Production in Viking Age and Early Medieval Iceland

iceland - photo by Eric Montfort / Flickr

Iron production may be used as a window through which to view, in part, the economic structure of Icelandic society during the Viking Age (c. AD 870-1000) and Early Medieval (AD 1000-1264) periods.

Lightning Strikes in Medieval Florence

lightning in Italy - photo by Jerry Riedl/ Flickr

Luca Landucci writes about lightning strikes in 15th century Florence.

Environmental Crusading: The Teutonic Knight’s Impact After the Baltic Crusades

Malbork Zamek Krzyzacki. Wikicommons

Environmental archaeologist and Professor of Archeology at Reading, Dr. Aleks Pluskowski, examined Malbork and several other sites across Eastern and Northern Europe in his recent paper, The Ecology of Crusading: The Environmental Impact of Holy War, Colonisation, and Religious Conversion in the Medieval Baltic. Pluskowski is keenly interested in the impact the Teutonic Knights and Christian colonisation had on the region. His ambitious 4 year project on the ecological changes in this area recently came to a close at the end of 2014.

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Local and Traditional on the Millennial Scale: Sustainable Waterfowl Management from Viking Age Iceland

Inhabited by Vikings since approximately 600 AD, the islands hosts an abundant, but terribly fragile resource, puffins, flightless birds that nest on rocky exposed cliffs, in easy range of the islanders other prime food source, pigs.

Tropical fire ants traveled the world on 16th century ships

fire ant  photo Rick Hagerty / Flickr

Thanks to a bit of genetic sleuthing, researchers now know the invasion history of the tropical fire ant, the first ant species known to travel the globe by sea.

The Great Wind of 1362

medieval wind storm

Some of the most vivid accounts we have from the Middle Ages are those that detail calamities and natural disasters. Such was the case when a massive winter storm struck northwestern Europe on January 15, 1362. In England this event would be called ‘The Great Wind’.

Vikings’ homes would have been very polluted, researchers find

Viking House in Hedeby - photo by Kai-Erik

Danish researchers have found that the fires used for cooking and heat in Viking-era houses would have caused significant indoor air pollution.

Winter, snow and cold in the life of the Westviking

winter iceland

The main purpose of this paper is to examine how the Westviking were influenced by winter, snow and cold in their day-to-day life as they were making progress in the West.

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