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Monday, February 06, 2006
Or was it the Little Ice Age? John Costello writes:
"If Serfdom in Europe was done away with by the Back Death, then Serfdom in Europe was done away with by the Little Ice Age. [This reads to me as if either "serfdom" or "Europe" in the second half of the sentence is a typo and should be replaced by something else. Nonetheless, John's argument is still quite clear - NS]
"The world's climate from around 200 BC to around 800 AD was similar to the 1950s'. Then came the Medieval Cliamactic Optimum, where the world's temperature rose about 2 degrees C. In the New World this led to the fall of Teotihuacan in the Valley of Mexico -- a high pressure zone kept the rains away, and the city of the gods died in warfare and cannibalism. The survivors moved north out of the Valley of Mexico and settled around Tula or Tollan (and became the Toltecs.) Although one suspects they were munching on each other well before then. In the Old World you Brits were growing grape wines in Northumberland. The architecture of the Medieval Castle came about -- not at all drafty, but rather airy towers. Oh yes, there would have been record harvests in Scandanavia, which caused a flood of Scandanavian tourists --the Vikings. Iceland and Greenland could be settled. In north Africa, the increased temperatures produced another high pressure zone over the Sahara which increased desertification (although the depredations of the Arabs didn't help.)
"Eight weeks after Easter in 1315 all this came to an end. Rain, murrains, famine, and physical exhaustion set the people of Europe up for the Black Death. The world's temperature dropped at least 4 degrees C. Charles II would later ice scate upon the frozen Thames and help found the Hudson's Bay Company because Europeans were freezing and needed furs to keep warm. It stayed cold until well into the 1880s.
"All this is well described in Brian Fagan's _The Little Ice Age._
"However, one must point out certain things. The Aztecs who resettled in the Valley of Mexico practiced human sacrfice, cannibalism, and slavery, and thought nothing at all wrong with it. The same climatic diasters that befell western europe affected Eastern Europe and Central Europe and they came very late to both the end of Serfdom and Capitalism.
"As a former anthropologist I trained in a field devoted to materialistic explanations for human behavior. I find such inadaquate. Ideas are just as real and as hardedged as any sword or cottin 'gin. Most of the time we can look at the diasters they produce -- Naziism and Marxism are two good examples, and I won't attract bombthrowers from the Religion of Peace to your site or by adding several others -- but they can have positive results as well. - John Costello"