The Little Ice Age and It's Affects on History

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In The Little Ice Age by Brian Fagan, the author examines climate and how it has changed over time. Fagan states that “climate change comes in sudden shifts from one regime to another-shifts whose causes are unknown to us and whose direction is beyond our control” (Fagan xviii). He also says that climate will have an impact on human events. Weather is possibly the greatest influence on history. From the Medieval warming period, to the Little Ice Age, to our current battle with Global Warming, history is shaped by our environment. From approximately 1300 to 1850, the world experienced what is known as the Little Ice Age. During this time, food, disease, and world events were greatly shaped by the world’s climate. One of the most important influences the Little Ice Age had on the world was on its food supply. The North Atlantic Oscillation, or the NAO, governs most of Europe’s climate. A high NAO index brings heavy storms and rainfall. This was the case in 1315. That spring, it rained for most of May, July, and August. This was followed by a cold spell in August and September. Because of this weather, corn and oats could not ripen, and wheat and rye completely failed, creating a smaller harvest than usual (29-32). Within months, the whole country was hungry. Prices had risen on what food was available. The King tried implementing several policies to increase the food supply, such as price controls on livestock and restrictions on the production of ales and other products made from the limited supply of grain. None of these policies worked, because there simply was just not enough food (32). People hoped the harvest of 1315 would be the end of it, but heavy rainfall in 1316 continued the hunger. The shortage of food became so severe that paupers were forced to eat dead bodies of cattle to survive. People from Northern France are rumored to

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