How Climate Change Affected the Course of History
S 2018


What is the role of climate in human affairs? ? How did human societies cope with climate change?

Historians have rarely paid attention to climate change, but it turns out that a few more, or a few less inches of rain, a change in one or two degrees, can make a difference in how human events unfold.  Often disregarded, climate change was a contributing factor to numerous historical developments, but it was far from being determinative. How humans coped with factors that were beyond their control determined the course of history.


The course will cover the effects of climate change on human history and the various ways humans responded to changes in their environment. It will cover a period of about 20,000 years, from 18,000 BCE to 1850 CE.  The course is not Eurocentric; it covers the effects of climate change on many diverse cultures located all around the world.


Three books authored by Brian Fagan are our core books:

1.              The Long Summer, How Climate Changed Civilization

2.              The Great Warming, Climate Change and the Rise and Fall of Civilizations

3.              Little Ice Age, How Climate Made History


            The course will provide an additional tool for the understanding of historical events.




Weekly Topics

1.              Non human causes of climate change, methods of studying ancient climate change and the Late Ice Age. The Great Warming (pp. 8-10); The Long Summer Chapters 2,3 (pp. 13-57); Causes of Climate Change, Physical Ch. 7 (introduction only).

2.              15,000 BCE to 10,000 BCE, Europe and the Middle East. The Long Summer Ch. 4,5 (pp.  59-96).

3.              10,000 BCE to 1900 BCE, Europe and Mesopotamia. The Long Summer Ch. 6,7, (pp. 99-145)

4.              6000 BCE -  1200 BCE, Egypt and Eastern Mediterranean Basin, The Long Summer Ch.8, 9, (pp. 147-188)

5.              1200 BCE – 900 CE, Celts and Romans, The Long Summer Ch. 10 (pp. 189-212).

6.              Medieval Warm Period (800-1200 CE) – Western Europe.  The Great Warming  Ch. 1,2 (pp. 1-45).

7.              Medieval Warm Period – Eurasia, Sahara and the Arctic. The Great Warming Ch. 3,4,5 (pp. 46-105).

8.              Medieval Warm Period – the American West and Central America. The Great Warming Ch. 6,7,8 (pp. 106-154).

9.              Medieval Warm Period – The Andes and the South Pacific. The Great Warming Ch. 9,10 (pp. 155-193); Climate Change Survival, Archeology March/April 2018

10.          Medieval Warm Period – India, South East Asia and China. The Great Warming Ch. 11,12 (pp. 194-227).

11.          The Little Ice Age –13th and 14th centuries. The Little Ice Age Ch. 2,3,4 (pp. 23-78)

12.          The Little Ice Age – 14th, 15th, 17th centuries. The Little Ice Age Ch. 5, 6, 7 (pp. 79-127)

13.          The Little Ice Age – England and France, The Little Ice Age Ch. 8,9 (pp. 129-166)

14.          The Little Ice Age, The Nineteenth Century, The Little Ice Age, Ch. 10,11 (167-197)