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Great warming : climate change and the rise and fall of civilizations / Brian Fagan.

By: Fagan, Brian.
Material type: materialTypeLabelBookPublisher: New York : Bloomsbury Press, 2009, c2008Edition: Pbk. edition.Description: xvii, 282 pages : illustrations, maps ; 21 cm.Content type: text Media type: unmediated Carrier type: volumeISBN: 9781596916012; 159691601X.Subject(s): Global warming -- History -- To 1500 | Human beings -- Effect of climate on | Climatic changes -- Social aspects
Contents:
A time of warming -- "The mantle of the poor" -- The flail of God -- The golden trade of the Moors -- Inuit and Qadlunaat -- The megadrought epoch -- Acorns and pueblos -- Lords of the water mountains -- The lords of Chimor -- Bucking the trades -- The flying fish ocean -- China's sorrow -- The silent elephant.
Summary: From the 10th to the 15th centuries, the earth experienced a rise in surface temperature that changed climate worldwide--a preview of today's global warming. In some areas, including Western Europe, longer summers brought bountiful harvests and population growth that led to cultural flowering. In the Arctic, Inuit and Norse sailors made cultural connections across thousands of miles as they traded precious iron goods. Polynesian sailors, riding new wind patterns, were able to settle the remotest islands on earth. But in many parts of the world, the warm centuries brought drought and famine. Elaborate societies in western and Central America collapsed, and the vast building complexes of Chaco Canyon and the Mayan Yucatan were left empty. Anthropologist and historian Brian Fagan reveals how subtle changes in the environment had far-reaching effects on human life, in a narrative that sweeps from the Arctic ice cap to the Sahara to the Indian Ocean.--From publisher description.
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

From the 10th to 15th centuries the earth experienced a rise in surface temperature that changed climate worldwide-a preview of today's global warming. In some areas, including much of Western Europe, longer summers brought bountiful crops and population growth that led to cultural flowering. In others, drought shook long-established societies, such as the Maya and the Indians of the American Southwest, whose monumental buildings were left deserted as elaborate social structures collapsed. Brian Fagan examines how subtle changes in the environment had far-reaching effects on human life, in a narrative that sweeps from the Arctic ice cap to the Sahara to the Indian Ocean. The lessons of history suggest we may be yet be underestimating the power of climate change to disrupt our lives today.

Includes bibliographical references (p. [245]-262) and index.

A time of warming -- "The mantle of the poor" -- The flail of God -- The golden trade of the Moors -- Inuit and Qadlunaat -- The megadrought epoch -- Acorns and pueblos -- Lords of the water mountains -- The lords of Chimor -- Bucking the trades -- The flying fish ocean -- China's sorrow -- The silent elephant.

From the 10th to the 15th centuries, the earth experienced a rise in surface temperature that changed climate worldwide--a preview of today's global warming. In some areas, including Western Europe, longer summers brought bountiful harvests and population growth that led to cultural flowering. In the Arctic, Inuit and Norse sailors made cultural connections across thousands of miles as they traded precious iron goods. Polynesian sailors, riding new wind patterns, were able to settle the remotest islands on earth. But in many parts of the world, the warm centuries brought drought and famine. Elaborate societies in western and Central America collapsed, and the vast building complexes of Chaco Canyon and the Mayan Yucatan were left empty. Anthropologist and historian Brian Fagan reveals how subtle changes in the environment had far-reaching effects on human life, in a narrative that sweeps from the Arctic ice cap to the Sahara to the Indian Ocean.--From publisher description.

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Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • Preface (p. ix)
  • Author's Note (p. xix)
  • 1 A Time of Warming (p. 1)
  • 2 "The Mantle of the Poor" (p. 22)
  • 3 The Fail of God (p. 46)
  • 4 The Golden Trade of the Moors (p. 66)
  • 5 Inuit and Qadlunaat (p. 87)
  • 6 The Megadrought Epoch (p. 106)
  • 7 Acorns and Pueblos (p. 120)
  • 8 Lords of the Water Mountains (p. 138)
  • 9 The Lords of Chimor (p. 155)
  • 10 Bucking the Trades (p. 173)
  • 11 The Flying Fish Ocean (p. 194)
  • 12 China's Sorrow (p. 213)
  • 13 The Silent Elephant (p. 228)
  • Acknowledgments (p. 243)
  • Notes (p. 245)
  • Index (p. 263)

Reviews provided by Syndetics

Publishers Weekly Review

Global warming is hardly new; in fact, the very long-term trend began about 12,000 years ago with the end of the Ice Age. Anthropologist Fagan (The Little Ice Age) focuses on the medieval warming period (ca. 800-1300), which helped Europe produce larger harvests; the surpluses helped fund the great cathedrals. But in many other parts of the world, says Fagan, changing water and air currents led to drought and malnutrition, for instance among the Native Americans of Northern California, whose key acorn harvests largely failed. Long-term drought contributed to the collapse of the Mayan civilization, and fluctuations in temperature contributed to, and inhibited, Mongol incursions into Europe. Fagan reveals how new research methods like ice borings, satellite observations and computer modeling have sharpened our understanding of meteorological trends in prehistorical times and preliterate cultures. Finally, he notes how times of intense, sustained global warming can have particularly dire consequences; for example, "by 2025, an estimated 2.8 billion of us will live in areas with increasingly scarce water resources." Looking backward, Fagan presents a well-documented warning to those who choose to look forward. Illus., maps. (Mar.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

CHOICE Review

Concerns about global warming have caused an increased interest in the history of climate and the influence of climate change on societies. Archaeologists, historians, and ecologists have studied past climates for decades, and many of Fagan's previous 24 books have explained aspects of these multidisciplinary studies for a general audience. Here, Fagan (emer., anthropology, Univ. of California, Santa Barbara) surveys data on the Medieval Warm Period, CE 800-1300, to discover its worldwide impact. In the Arctic, Norsemen and Inuit flourished and expanded their territories, and their contacts led to the trade of American walrus ivory for European iron tools. Europe benefited from longer growing periods for crops. However, arid regions on four continents suffered severe droughts that forced some nomads to abandon lands that had previously supported them. Fagan's chapters explain the kinds of evidence available--dendrochronology, paleobotany, Greenland ice cores, coral growth rings, kitchen middens, historical records--and what that evidence indicates about societies. Fagan emphasizes that concerns about the impact of rising sea-levels have diverted attention from the equally serious impact of widespread droughts. The Great Warming provides accessible accounts and citations to scholarly sources of evidence. Includes helpful illustrations, maps, and charts. Summing Up: Highly recommended. Public, academic, and professional collections, all levels. F. N. Egerton emeritus, University of Wisconsin--Parkside

Booklist Review

A prequel to the author's fascinating The Little Ice Age (2001), a history of climate's influence on civilization from 1300 to 1850, Fagan's work queries the response of societies to the warm period of 800 to 1300. Encompassing the inhabited globe, Fagan's breadth balances with his power to synthesize a range of scientific and archaeological evidence with historical imagination, achieving a global perspective on the medieval warm period, as scholars title the time. Each chapter about a geographical area evocatively depicts its farmers or hunters in the backbreaking task of wresting food from their environment before presenting locally specific weather events of these centuries. (Sidebars explain how scientists determine ancient weather.) Stressing climatic volatility even within a planet-wide warm-up, Fagan delineates the precarious relationship between societies outgrowing their resources. Bountiful to Europe, the warm period was a disastrous drought to more southerly civilizations in Asia, Central America, and southwest North America. Superbly integrating the human and climatological past, Fagan's expertise wears easily in a fine popular treatment relevant to contemporary debate about climate.--Taylor, Gilbert Copyright 2007 Booklist

Kirkus Book Review

What happened when the world grew warmer from 800 to 1200 CE. Drawing on data gathered during the past 30 years by climatologists using such modern tools as deep-sea cores, ice borings, computer modeling, tree and coral rings, Fagan (Fish on Friday: Feasting, Fasting, and the Discovery of the New World, 2006, etc.) offers a tentative history of the "Medieval Warm Period," when rising surface temperatures produced sudden, unpredictable climate swings throughout the world. Although much remains unknown, there is good evidence that there were winners and losers in this period of global warming. It was a time of abundant harvests and the cultural achievements of the High Middle Ages in Europe, while other areas from the Americas to China and Eastern Africa experienced long periods of drought and famine. "Farmers went hungry, civilizations collapsed, and cities imploded," writes Fagan. Prolonged drought stalks these pages, a silent killer the author considers a harbinger of what could happen during our own time of global warming. Medieval droughts lasted for decades in California and the American Southwest, he notes. Even the lower Hudson River Valley experienced arid conditions that, if they occurred today, would endanger urban water supplies. Much of the book describes how the Medieval Warm Period affected trade, warfare and other aspects of life. In Central America, drought repeatedly disrupted the lives of the Mayans, who relied on unpredictable water sources. Elsewhere, many rural societies coped by building canals for irrigation, borrowing food from neighbors in times of need, maintaining kinship ties with distant communities and moving there when droughts came. Today's more densely populated planet, notes the author, with 250 million people living on agriculturally marginal lands, is far more vulnerable to long periods of drought, especially the developing world and such populous areas as Arizona, California and southwestern Asia. An alarm bell ringing out from a distant time. Copyright ©Kirkus Reviews, used with permission.