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Tambora and the Year without a Summer: How a Volcano Plunged the World into Crisis

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Tambora and the Year without a Summer: How a Volcano Plunged the World into Crisis

Wolfgang Behringer

ISBN: 978-1-509-52552-2 May 2019 Polity 350 Pages

Description

In 1816, the climate went berserk. The winter brought extreme cold, and torrential rains unleashed massive flooding in Asia. Western Europe and North America experienced a ‘year without a summer’, while failed harvests in 1817 led to the ‘year of famine’. At the time, nobody knew that all these disturbances were the result of a single event: the eruption of Mount Tambora in what is now Indonesia – the greatest volcanic eruption in recorded history.

In this book, leading climate historian Wolfgang Behringer provides the first globally comprehensive account of a climate catastrophe that would cast the world into political and social crises for years to come. Concentrating on the period between 1815 and 1820, Behringer shows how this natural occurrence led to worldwide unrest. Analysing events as diverse as the persecution of Jews in Germany, the Peterloo Massacre in the United Kingdom, witch hunts in South Africa and anti-colonial uprisings in Asia, Behringer demonstrates that no region on earth was untouched by the effects of the eruption. Drawing parallels with our world today, Tambora and its aftermath become a case study for how societies and individuals respond to climate change, what risks emerge and how they might be overcome.

This comprehensive account of the impact of one of the greatest environmental disasters in human history will be of interest to a wide readership and to anyone seeking to understand better how we might mitigate the effects of climate change.

  • 1. Introduction: The Tambora Crisis
  • 2. The year of the explosion: 1815
  • 3. The year without a summer: 1816
  • 4. The year of famine: 1817
  • 5. The turbulent years that followed: 1818Ð1820
  • 6. The long-range effects of the Tambora Crisis
  • 7. Epilogue: From meaningless to meaningful crisis
  • Abbreviations
  • Notes
  • Bibliography
  • Picture credits
  • Index

‘In this masterly work, Behringer draws on a wealth of detail to demonstrate the profound effects of the Tambora eruption on human society globally. Engagingly written, it will appeal to students and scholars of history as well as a wide general readership.’
J. Donald Hughes, University of Denver

‘Charting Tambora’s effects on climate, global politics, the history of science, the world economy and individual lives, this outstanding book makes the history of most places in the world between the years 1815 and 1820 unthinkable without the story of the largest volcanic eruption ever recorded. Fast-paced and intricately constructed, this is climate crisis as page-turner.’
Alan Mikhail, Yale University

‘This is a truly remarkable book, a global history ranging from Indonesia to Munich to Tasmania. Behringer shows how a volcano in Tambora touched off a weather crisis that brought famine and political instability in Europe, witch hunting in Africa and even genocide in Australia. He brings the story to life through the voices of contemporaries: Mary Wollstonecraft, Goethe, Constable ... unforgettable.’
Lyndal Roper, University of Oxford

“Behringer provides a brilliant illustration of the truly global character of this natural catastrophe and all its ramifications.”
Deutsche Presse-Agentur

“By showing how the planet was completely transformed by extreme weather events some 200 years ago, Behringer offers a highly original contribution to current climate debates.”
Deutschlandradio Kultur

"The largest volcanic eruption ever recorded took place in Indonesia in April 1815 — and no region on earth was untouched by its effects. This comprehensive account of the impact of one of the greatest environmental disasters in human history offers a case study for how societies and individuals respond to climate change, what risks emerge and how they might be overcome."
Climate & Capitalism