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4.6 out of 5 stars24
4.6 out of 5 stars
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This is a voyage into Braudelian history as a world full (by the contemporary standards) of people collides with climate change. The book's strength is looking not only for the similarities across cultures but the differences. How Japanese rulers reacted compared to the Qing is very informative as is the effect on Latin America where populations were comparatively low after the various post-Conquistador policies and epidemics. The question of whether the plague of revolts, rebellions and revolutions was caused by the Little Ice Age or was already in process is less easy to answer. There was clearly a growing difference between an increasingly educated underclass and a governing class used to rule by fiat (especially where it lacked the apparatus to rule properly). Later in the "long 17th century" after the many bloodlettings the propensity to revolt reduced, was it a Hobbesian reaction to chaos or simply the result of less people sharing the same resource.

This is a book that makes you think and want to discuss, and it will not be the last word.
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on 21 June 2013
This work has received outstanding reviews, but reviewers have noted its length, and the unrelentingly depressing story it tells of global crisis, famine, plague, war, revolution and social breakdown. There are harrowing sections on infanticide, rape, abortion and war. Nevertheless it is a delight to read: constantly moving focus, always illuminated by testimony from unfamiliar sources, ranging widely in geography and subject matter. For many UK readers this may be their first in-depth encounter with Chinese and Japanese history, and the book is worth the effort for that alone.
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on 6 January 2015
I was impressed by this book. Geoffrey Parker manages to paint the history of the 17th. Century in a way which manages to bring together so many different regional strands without forgetting the major core events of the time. The style is quite approachable without lacking unapproachable rigour. One was left with the impression that the Century impacted negatively on ALL parts of the world. I was able to link the chaos of Britain with that in so many other regions, in the same timeframe. A pity that my GCE syllabus wasn't so compartmentalised:I might have chosen History for my degree!
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on 27 November 2014
I always thought Trevor-Roper's "General Crisis of the Seventeenth Century" was partly true, but had something missing to it. Geoffrey Parker has triumphantly revealed what that something might be. The references in Parker's book are impressive. The only cavil I have is that he attributes a climatic explanation to Voltaire- as in the "Essai Sur Les Moeurs" of 1756, but nowhere mentions Montesquieu's "De L'Esprit Des Lois" of 1748, where a climate theory of history is presented far more thoroughly.
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on 20 March 2015
This is a very, very good book. I came across it by accident, almost hidden in a not-often-visited section of local library. After browsing it, decided I wanted my own copy. There is so much in this book it is difficult to do it justice. Its sub-heading is "War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the 17th Century", the author's research is incredible. Highly recommended
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on 7 November 2014
This extraordinary book presents the 17th-century’s wars and revolutions and shows how changes in the climate affected the world in these years.

In 1643-1715, there were fewer sunspots, that is, fewer eruptions of extra solar energy, in 70 years than in one year now. El Niño now happens once every five years, but in the mid-17th century it happened far more often: 1638, 1639, 1641, 1642, 1646, 1648, 1650, 1651, 1652, 1659, 1660 and 1661.

The mid-17th century had the coldest spell of weather for 1,000 years. 1641 was the third coldest summer in the northern hemisphere in the last 600 years, and 1643 the tenth coldest. This Little Ice Age killed a third of the world’s people.

1638-44 also saw a record 12 volcanic eruptions around the Pacific. Parker explains this by pointing out, “in ‘normal’ years, when easterly winds prevail, the Pacific stands some 24 inches higher off the Asian than off the American coast, whereas in El Niño years, when westerly winds prevail, those levels reverse. The movement of such a huge volume of water places enormous pressure on the edges of the earth’s tectonic plates around the Pacific periphery, where the most violent and most active volcanoes in the world are located, and this may trigger a spate of eruptions. If this hypothesis is true, it creates a deadly cycle: Reduced solar energy received on earth lowers temperatures, which increases the risk of more, and more severe, El Niño events. El Niño events may trigger volcanic eruptions around the Pacific that throw sulphur dioxide into the stratosphere, which further reduces the solar energy received on earth. El Niño activity becomes twice as likely after a major volcanic eruption.”

These climate events wrecked harvests, causing hunger and therefore disease, and destabilising most of the world’s countries.
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on 17 August 2013
This is an amazing book, bringing together so much relevant history. Historians have neglected the role of climate for too long. This is an important book for thinking about the future.
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on 26 April 2015
The scope of this book is quite extraordinary and the scholarship involved somewhat intimidating. A detailed insight into events that few appear to be aware of but which have contributed to shaping the world we live in. There are lessons to be learned for the survival of mankind but whether they will be observed is open to question. In spite of its length and the detail I found it an absorbing and easy read although I struggled with the pronunciation of Chinese and Japanese names. If your interest is in history and you are curious as to how we have managed to survive this long then you should read this book.
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on 27 September 2014
Excellent reference book but not to be read in one go. Perhaps more for an historian.
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on 13 December 2013
This book looks at the 17th century from a completely different aspect. It shows how climate change, there Mini Ice Age, affected mankind in spectacular ways. A brilliant book with the broadest canvas deftly and brilliantly handled. Parker handles how the mini ice age affected society from China to Scotland: brilliant and a truly mind changing perspective.
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