Crisis and Catastrophe: The World Crisis of the Seventeenth Century
The author points out that the middle of the seventeenth century witnessed more political crises and revolts than any other previous or subsequent period in history. It was also the time of most numerous wars prior to 1940. Troubles befell China (downfall of the Ming dynasty), Japan (Shimbara Rebellion), India (civil wars), Turkey and the European countries: France, England, Germany, Poland, Russia, central Italy and Sicily, Spain and Portugal. These events led to the depopulation of vast territories in Europe and China. G. Parker is convinced that these crises were to a large extent caused by climatic changes, which encompassed: the decrease of solar activity (during the period 1640–1700 astronomers observed 100 sunspots, while during a period of sixty years of the twentieth century 100.000 sunspots were noted), and a series of volcanic eruptions in the equatorial belt of the Pacific (1638, 1655). In result the circulation of air and ocean currents was altered. In the years 1640, 1641, 1647, 1650, 1652, 1655, and in 1661 the El Niňo current appeared, which caused among other floods in Central and South America, and in Ethiopia, draughts in Asia and Australia, and cold winters in Europe. The latter resulted in the growth of the glacial cover, which reflected sun radiation and caused further temperature decrease in the northern hemisphere.
The author also emphasizes the considerable, and still increasing number of sources for the history of the climate. These sources encompass two types of evidence: the so called “human archive” (narrative, numerical, iconographical and archaeological sources) and the “natural archive” (glacial repositories and data, palinological and dendrochronological data). These materials, which come from different parts of the world, allow not only for historical research of the climatic changes and their outcome, but for the preparation of inquiries into the contemporary climatic changes too.