Ankündigung: „The Crisis of the 14th Century: ‘Teleconnections’ between Environmental and Societal Change?”

Jan van der Straet/ Giovanni Stradano: Illustration zum Dantes Göttlicher Komödie, Canto VI: Die der Völlerei Schuldigen liegen im ewigen Regen und Hagel und wälzen sich im Schlamm. Ihre Körper sind durchscheinend (Quelle: Wikimedia Commons)

Jan van der Straet/ Giovanni Stradano: Illustration to Dante’s Divine Comedy, Canto VI: The Gluttons are tortured by eternal rain. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

Conference at the German Historical Institute, Rome, 24-26 February 2016,  organized by Martin Bauch (Deutsches Historisches Institut, Rom) and Gerrit J. Schenk (Technische Universität Darmstadt) in association with the DFG-Project ‚Vulnerable Societies‘ (D. Collet, Heidelberg University)

The first half of the 14th century, with its relatively rapid transition from the so-called Medieval Climate Anomaly to the so-called Little Ice Age, is the first period in history in which a change from one climatic regime to another is assessable not only by scientific data. At the same time, this climactic change can also be detected in comparatively good written records on meteorological and social phenomena of change. The idea of the ‘crisis of the 14th century’ is a well-established interpretational pattern for numerous developments and problems of late medieval societies in Europe. However, this interpretation has been criticized as a contemporary projection of the crisis-ridden 20th century. The narrative of crisis does certainly not apply to all developments after 1300 but a focus on the natural framework of the time might help sharpen our knowledge about the processes through which environmental change contributed to socio-economic crisis.

The increasing frequency of extreme natural events and their impact on societies is hard to deny: The first extensive onslaught of the Black Death, between 1347-51, has always attracted the attention of research, but the wet and cold years from 1345 onwards are yet to be analysed in detail. An interest in the “Great Famine“ (1315-21), which is believed to have affected above all North-western Europe, has become stronger in the past few years. New fields of investigation are added to the analysis of epidemics and famines: There is emerging research on epizootics and flood events such as St. Mary Magdalene’s Flood in 1342, which led to massive erosion or the ‘Grote Mandrenke’ storm surge on the North Sea coast in 1362. At the same time, counteractions of the affected societies can be observed. These include the construction of embankments and dikes, as well as grain provision and the organization of municipal health care. On the cognitive level, a newly awakened interest in the reception and interpretation of meteorological phenomena by late medieval witnesses is clearly visible, and is not limited to interpretations based on astro-meteorology and theology of punishment.

The conference at the German Historical Institut in Rome focuses on the supposed climatic deterioration from 1300 on, discussing its presumed impact on economy and society, and the possibly related epidemic, cultural and political phenomena. In this context, the meteorological term ‘teleconnections‘ describes the occurrence of causal correlations between (not only geographically) distant areas: Here, we deal with the direct and indirect impact of meteorologically extreme events on medieval societies between 1280 and 1380. Geographically, the proposed papers will not only focus on the relatively well explored Northwestern Europe, but also on equally important areas in Central, Southern and East-Central Europe. Additionally, a global perspective will be provided by contributions on the Byzantine and Muslim world as well as on South East Asia.


Conference programme:

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

9:30       Martin Baumeister (DHI Rome): Welcome

9:45       Gerrit J. Schenk (TU Darmstadt)/Martin Bauch (DHI Rom): Introduction

10:00     Chair: Francesco Salvestrini
Paolo Nanni (Univ. Firenze): Climate Variability in Italy during the first half of the 14th Century: Historical data and research questions

Martin Bauch (DHI Rom): A truly ‘Dantean’ anomaly? Bologna and Siena between 1310 and 1321

11:30     Coffee break

11:45     Christof Paulus (LMU München): The defense of the crisis, or: An emperor-monk explains his world

Mihailo Popović (ÖAW, Wien): Did the Little Ice Age have an observable Impact on the Southern Balkan Peninsula in the first half of the 14th Century?

13:15    Lunch break (Snacks in the foyer of DHIR)

14:30     Chair: Richard C. Hoffmann
András Vadas (CEU Budapest): When was the beginning of the Little Ice Age in the Carpathian Basin?

Chantal Camenisch (Univ. Bern): 14th century sources in the area of modern Switzerland and their potential for environmental and climate history

16:00     Coffee break

16:30     Rainer Schreg (RGZM, Mainz): Plague and Desertion – a Consequence of Anthropogenic Landscape Change? Archaeological Studies in Southern Germany

Thursday, 25 February 2016

9:30       Chair: Dominik Collet
Thomas Labbé (Univ. Dijon): The Crisis of 1315 between Lyon, Mâcon and Geneva? A Study with Rural Economic Sources

Peter Brown (Durham University): The Extreme Windstorm of AD 1362: Contemporary Perceptions and Responses

11:00     Coffee break

11:30     Phil Slavin (Univ. of Kent, Canterbury): Was Malthus Right? Re-Assessing the Role of Demography in Pre-Industrial Famines – the Case of Late-medieval British Isles

Maximilian Schuh (HCE Heidelberg): Narratives of environmental impacts in English sources of the early Fourteenth Century

13:00     Lunch break (Snacks in the foyer of DHIR)

14:00     Chair: Gerrit J. Schenk
Ulla Kypta (Univ. Basel) / Angela Huang (Copenhagen Univ.): Climatic change and inter-city cooperation

Heli Huhtamaa (Univ. of Eastern Finland/Univ. Bern): Climate and the Great Famine in North-East Europe

16:00     Coffee break

18:00     Public evening lecture:
Bruce M.S. Campbell (Belfast Univ.): The environmental origins of the Black Death

Friday, 26 February 2016

9:30       Chair: Bruce M.S. Campbell
Ronnie Ellenblum (Hebrew Univ., Jerusalem): The first half of the 14th century in the eastern Mediterranean  – a period of wealth?

Tana Li (ANU Canberra): Climatic impacts in Vietnam and Southern China 1280-1360

11:00     Coffee break

11:30     Jürg Luterbacher (JLU Gießen): Climatological commentary
Gerrit J. Schenk/Martin Bauch: Concluding remarks

12:30 (ca.) End of the conference


[1] U.a. Peter Schuster, Die Krise des Spätmittelalters, in: HZ 269 (1999), S. 19-55.

[2] William C. Jordan, The Great Famine (1315-1312) revisited, in: Ecologies and economies in medieval and early modern Europe. Studies in environmental history for Richard C. Hofmann (Brill, 2010), pp. 45-62.

[3] Gerrit J. Schenk, …prima ci fu la cagione de la mala provedenza de’ Fiorentini… Disaster and “Life world” – Reactions in the Commune of Florence to the Flood of November 1333, in: Coping with Natural Disasters in Pre-industrial Societies, ed. by Monica Juneja / Franz Mauelshagen (= Special Issue, The Medieval History Journal 10. 1+2, 2007), pp. 355-386

[4] Martin Bauch, Famine, locusts and erosion. Sketching the environmental framing of crises in 14th century Italy and East-Central Europe, in: Ceský Casopis Historický 114/2 (2016) [im Druck].

[5] Erste Schritte in diese Richtung bei John L. Brooke, Climate Change and the Course of Global History: A Rough Journey (Cambridge University Press, 2014); Patrick Boucheron, Histoire du monde au XVe siècle (Fayard, 2009).

Martin Bauch

Leiter einer Nachwuchsforschungsgruppe (Freigeist-Fellowship) am Leibniz-Institut für die Geschichte und Kultur des östlichen Europa (GWZO) in Leipzig; Mitgründer von

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2 Antworten

  1. 4. April 2016

    […] Evening lecture of Bruce M.S. Campbell (Belfast), 25 February 2016, International Conference „The Crisis of the 14th Century. ‘Teleconnections’ between Environmental and Societal Change?” (German Historical Institute, 24-26 February 2016);Conference report (upcoming) and programme of the conference […]

  2. 27. Juni 2016

    […] die Krise des 14. Jahrhunderts wurde bereits viel geschrieben und diskutiert.[1] Die Konferenz am Deutschen Historischen Institut (DHI) in Rom zeigte indes, dass dem Forschungsstand noch vieles hinzuzufügen ist. Statt sich wie viele vor […]

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