General Introduction: Weather, Climate, and Human History

  • Christian Pfister
  • Sam White
  • Franz Mauelshagen


This chapter introduces the field of climate history, the study of past climates and weather, and their role in human history. Climate history builds on the insights of paleoclimatology (the reconstruction of past climates from the archives of nature) and historical climatology (the reconstruction of past climates and weather from the archives of societies), as well as the methods of conventional history. European climate history emerged as a distinct field of study during the mid-twentieth century and has since developed into a more expansive, global field of study. The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History presents the state of the field with respect to climate history methods, regional results, themes, case studies, and the history of climate science.


  1. Behringer, Wolfgang. Tambora und das Jahr ohne Sommer: wie ein Vulkan die Welt in die Krise stürzte. Munich: C.H.Beck, 2015.Google Scholar
  2. Bell, Wendy T., and Astrid E.J. Ogilvie. “Weather Compilations as a Source of Data for the Reconstruction of European Climate during the Medieval Period.” Climatic Change 1 (1978): 331–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bradley, Raymond S. Paleoclimatology: Reconstructing Climates of the Quaternary. Third edition. Amsterdam: Elsevier, 2015.Google Scholar
  4. Brázdil, Rudolf et al. “Historical Climatology in Europe—The State of the Art.” Climatic Change 70 (2005): 363–430.Google Scholar
  5. Carey, Mark. “Climate and History: A Critical Review of Historical Climatology and Climate Change Historiography.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 3 (2012): 233–49.Google Scholar
  6. Cline, Eric H. 1177 B.C.: The Year Civilization Collapsed. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. De Vries, Jan. “Measuring the Impact of Climate on History: The Search for Appropriate Methodologies.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10 (1980): 599–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Dutton, Paul Edward. “Observations on Early Medieval Weather in General, Bloody Rain in Particular.” In The Long Morning of Medieval Europe, edited by Jennifer Davis and Michael McCormick, 167–80. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008.Google Scholar
  9. Encyclopédie ou Dictionnaire raisonné des sciences, des arts et des métiers, vol. 3. Paris, 1753.Google Scholar
  10. Fleming, James. Historical Perspectives on Climate Change. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.Google Scholar
  11. Frenzel, Burkhard et al., eds. Paleoclimate Research. Vol. 7. ESF Project “European Paleoclimate and Man”. Stuttgart: G. Fischer, 1992.Google Scholar
  12. Guiot, Joel. “The Combination of Historical Documents and Biological Data in the Reconstruction of Climate Variations in Space and Time.” In European Climate Reconstructed from Documentary Data: Methods and Results, edited by Burkhard Frenzel, Birgit Gläser, and Christian Pfister, 93–105. Stuttgart: Fischer, 1992.Google Scholar
  13. Ingram, Martin J. et al. “Historical Climatology.” Nature 276 (1978): 329–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Kates, Robert W. “The Interaction of Climate and Society.” In Climate Impact Assessment, edited by Robert W. Kates, Jesse H. Ausubel, and Mimi Berberian, 3–36. Chichester: Wiley, 1985.Google Scholar
  15. Kington, John. “Horace H. Lamb.” In Complete Dictionary of Scientific Biography, edited by Noretta Koertge, 22: 193–96. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 2007.Google Scholar
  16. Krämer, Daniel. “Menschen grasten nun mit dem Vieh”: die letzte grosse Hungerkrise der Schweiz 1816/17: mit einer theoretischen und methodischen Einführung in die historische Hungerforschung. Basel: Schwabe, 2015.Google Scholar
  17. Lamb, Hubert H. Climate, History, and the Modern World. Second edition. London: Routledge, 1995.Google Scholar
  18. Lamb, Hubert H., and Martin J. Ingram. “Climate and History.” Past and Present 88 (1980): 136–41.Google Scholar
  19. Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate Since the Year 1000. Translated by Barbara Bray. New York: Noonday Press, 1971.Google Scholar
  20. Le Roy Ladurie, Emmanuel. Histoire humaine et comparée du climat. 3 vols. Paris: Fayard, 2004.Google Scholar
  21. Lieberman, Victor. Strange Parallels: Southeast Asia in Global Context, c.800–1830. Vol. 2. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2009.Google Scholar
  22. Mann, Michael et al. “Atlantic Hurricanes and Climate over the Past 1,500 Years.” Nature 460 (2009): 880–85.Google Scholar
  23. Martin-Nielsen, Janet. “Ways of Knowing Climate: Hubert H. Lamb and Climate Research in the UK.” WIREs: Climate Change 6 (2015): 465–77.Google Scholar
  24. Mauelshagen, Franz. “Redefining Historical Climatology in the Anthropocene.” The Anthropocene Review 1 (2014): 171–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mauelshagen, Franz. “Ein neues Klima im 18. Jahrhundert.” Zeitschrift für Kulturwissenschaften 1 (2016): 39–56.Google Scholar
  26. Parker, Geoffrey. Global Crisis: War, Climate Change and Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2013.Google Scholar
  27. Pfister, Christian. “The Little Ice Age: Thermal and Wetness Indices for Central Europe.” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10 (1980): 665–96.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Pfister, Christian. “Snow Cover, Snow-Lines and Glaciers in Central Europe since the 16th Century.” In The Climatic Scene. Essays in Honour of Prof. Gordon Manley, edited by Michael J. Tooley and Gillian M. Sheail, 154–74. London: Allen & Unwin, 1985.Google Scholar
  29. Pfister, Christian. Review of Les dérangements du temps. 500 ans de chaud et de froid en Europe, by Emmanuel Garnier. Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales 66 (2011): 303–05.Google Scholar
  30. Pfister, Christian et al. “The Creation of High Resolution Spatio-Temporal Reconstructions of Past Climate from Direct Meteorological Observations and Proxy Data: Methodological Considerations and Results.” In Climatic Trends and Anomalies in Europe 1675–1715, edited by Burkhard Frenzel, Birgit Gläser, and Christian Pfister, 329–76. Stuttgart: G. Fischer, 1994.Google Scholar
  31. Pfister, Christian et al. “The Meteorological Framework and the Cultural Memory of Three Severe Winter-Storms in Early Eighteenth-Century Europe.” Climatic Change 101 (2010): 281–310.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Post, John. Food Shortage, Climatic Variability, and Epidemic Disease in Preindustrial Europe. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1985.Google Scholar
  33. Rohland, Eleonora. “Adapting to Hurricanes. A Historical Perspective on New Orleans from Its Foundation to Hurricane Katrina, 1718–2005.” Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews: Climate Change 9 (2017): e488.Google Scholar
  34. Stehr, Nico, and Hans von Storch. “Von der Macht des Klimas: Ist der Klimadeterminismus nur noch Ideengeschichte oder relevanter Faktor gegenwärtiger Klimapolitik?” Gaia 9 (2000): 187–95.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thomas, Julia Adeney. “Historiographic ‘Turns’ in Critical Perspective (Comment).” The American Historical Review 117 (2012): 794–803.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Wanner, Heinz et al. “Wintertime European Circulation Patterns during the Late Maunder Minimum Cooling Period (1675–1704).” Theoretical and Applied Climatology 51 (1995): 167–75.Google Scholar
  37. Wigley, Tom M.L. et al. “Historical Climate Impact Assessments.” In SCOPE 27 Climate Impact Assessment: Studies of the Interaction of Climate and Society, edited by Robert W. Kates, Jessie H. Ausubel, and Mimi Berberian. Chichester, UK: Wiley, 1985.Google Scholar
  38. Wood, Gillen D’Arcy. Tambora: The Eruption That Changed the World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014.Google Scholar
  39. World Bank. Turn Down the Heat: Confronting the New Climate Normal. Washington, DC: World Bank, 2014.Google Scholar
  40. Zumbühl, Heinz J. Die Schwankungen der Grindelwaldgletscher in den historischen Bild- und Schriftquellen des 12. bis 19. Jahrhunderts. Ein Beitrag zur Gletschergeschichte und Erforschung des Alpenraumes. Basel: Birkhaüser, 1980.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Christian Pfister
    • 1
  • Sam White
    • 2
  • Franz Mauelshagen
    • 3
  1. 1.Institute of History, Oeschger Centre for Climate ChangeBernSwitzerland
  2. 2.Department of HistoryOhio State UniversityColumbusUSA
  3. 3.Institute for Advanced Sustainability Studies, University of PotsdamPotsdamGermany

Personalised recommendations