How a seven-year
cycle of rain, cold, disease, and warfare created the worst famine in European
In May 1315 it started to rain. It didn’t stop anywhere in
north Europe until August. Next came the four coldest winters in a millennium.
Two separate animal epidemics killed nearly 80 percent of northern Europe’s
livestock. Wars between Scotland and England, France and Flanders, and two
rival claimants to the Holy Roman Empire destroyed all remaining farmland.
After seven years, the combination of lost harvests, warfare, and pestilence
would claim six million lives—one eighth of Europe’s total population.
William Rosen draws on a wide array of disciplines, from
military history to feudal law to agricultural economics and climatology, to
trace the succession of traumas that caused the Great Famine. With dramatic appearances
by Scotland’s William Wallace, the luckless Edward II, and his treacherous
Queen Isabella, history’s best-documented episode of catastrophic climate
change comes alive, with powerful implications for future calamities. Download and start listening now!