Climate change is a hot topic now and Phillipp Blom weights in with his book Nature’s Mutiny, that explores the consequences of the Little Ice Age. Blom sets the time frame of the Little Ice Age from the late 1570 to the late 1680s when the change in temperature was a mere 2 Celsius. He confines his analysis to Europe and shows how the continent was changed from a feudal society dominated by the Catholic Church to a world of cities with a growing economy based on early capitalism and an intellectual flowering based on reason and pragmatism . Climate change has consequences and can bring about changes both good and bad; could Blom have a message for all of us in this book?
Blom begins by describing the immediate human consequences of the climate changes beginning about 1570 and we learn about the nature of the changes and the fears of the people as they tried to understand them. The author points out, for example, how cold temperatures and prolonged dry weather led to food shortages that caused people to look for a scapegoat so that the rise of witch trials began. Blom next turns to the long term ramifications of the crisis and examines the economic, social, scientific, military, and cultural developments that occurred such as the rise of literacy and printing, development of new farming and military equipment, and growth of mercantilism. Blom finally exams the effect of all the changes he has enumerated on European thinking, which is what we call the Enlightenment. In his epilogue he author relates the experiences of the Little Ice Age to the present day and calls on the readers to learn from the past.
The topic is timely and Blom does a good job of including many fascinating details that make his work more than just a stuffy analysis of data. He includes plenty of anecdotal material to enliven the text and touches on many diverse topics from economics and science to the arts. Blom’s writing style is easy to follow and the book is a good read, especially for anyone interested in European history.
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