This volume investigates environmental and political crises that occurred in Europe during the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Period, and considers their effects on people’s lives. At this time, the fragile human existence was imagined as a ‘Dance of Death’, where anyone, regardless of social status or age, could perish unexpectedly. This book covers events ranging from cooling temperatures and the onset of the Little Ice Age, to the frequent occurrence of epidemic disease, pest infestations, food shortages and famines.

Covering the mid-fourteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries, this collection of essays considers a range of countries between Iceland (to the north), Italy (to the south), France (to the west) and the westernmost parts of Russia (to the east). This wide-reaching volume considers how deeply climate variability and changes affected and changed society in the late medieval to early modern period, and asks what factors, other than climate, interfered in the development of environmental stress and socio-economic crises.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of Environmental and Climate History, Environmental Humanities, Medieval and Early Modern History and Historical Geography, as well as Climate Change and Environmental Sciences.

chapter |5 pages


Edited ByAndrea Kiss  ORCID IconKathleen Pribyl  ORCID Icon

part 1|79 pages

Northern and Western Europe

chapter 1|16 pages

Famines, mortality, livestock deaths and scholarship

Environmental stress in Iceland ca. 1500–1700

chapter 2|21 pages

Winter severity in medieval Sweden

The documentary evidence

chapter 4|20 pages

War, climatic stress and environmental degradation during the 15th and 16th centuries

The case of the north Flemish coastal landscape in the estuary of the Western Scheldt

part 2|69 pages

Central Europe

chapter 5|18 pages

From the alpine mountain height to the Swiss Lake District

Climate and society in the city and Republic of Bern from the 14th to the 16th centuries

chapter 6|18 pages

Apocalyptic riders in the borderlands

Dealing with locust invasion, diseases and war in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Eastern and Southern Austria

chapter 7|21 pages

A dynamic interplay of weather, biological factors and socio-economic interactions

Late 15th-century–early 16th-century crises in Hungary

part 3|76 pages

Southern Europe and beyond

chapter 11|16 pages

‘Toute chose se desnature’

Environmental changes of the 14th century in the perspective of contemporary witnesses (c. 1330–1400)

chapter 12|19 pages

Chronology and impact of a global moment in the 13th century

The Samalas eruption revisited