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A Cultural History of Climate (Englisch) Taschenbuch – 13. November 2009

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"The reaction of societies to environmental change in this thoroughly research and insightful book is presented in a highly readable way, whether Behringer is dealing with the Medieval Warm Period and wine harvest data, or with the Little Ice Age and the rise of the Dutch genre of winter landscape painting."
"[E]xcellent ... I strongly recommend A Cultural History of Climate ... It is particularly strong on explaining the dramatic cultural and social changes that climate variations have had on humanity over the last thousands of years, and discussing the archival and physical evidence in a very compelling way."
Socialist Unity

"A daring account of the ways in which climate has influenced the human story ... he proves beyond any sensible doubt that climate has helped shape human history. BOOK OF THE MONTH."
"Behringer's cultural history of climate shows that today's concern with global warming is only the latest example of humankind's preoccupation with weather and climate. He provides a careful and realistic view of the reaction of societies to environmental change."
J. Donald Hughes, University of Denver
"Today we may worry about global warming and climate change, but our ancestors coped with plenty of dramatic climate change too - this is the central theme of Behringer's arresting global study of human responses to changing climate since our species appeared on earth. Not all readers will share his sanguine tone but they will find this extensively researched book consistently provocative and insightful, whether it's dealing with wine harvest data, adoption of heavier clothing, the great ice age or the Dutch genre of winter landscape painting."
Peter Coates, University of Bristol


Everyone talks about the weather. We are no exception: there are currently more predictions than usual about what it will look like in the future. But what do we know about climate variations 500 years ago, or 5000 years ago? How can we know anything at all about the history of weather? What impact have climate changes had on human prosperity and the spirit of invention?
Wolfgang Behringer introduces us to the latest historical research on the development of the earth's climate; he shows what may today be considered secure knowledge, which changes have taken place in the past, and how they hindered or promoted the advance of Homo sapiens. The book first offers some elements of scientific orientation, then examines in greater detail the connection between the climate and cultural development since the middle ages. Behringer's exciting study graphically portrays the difficulties that our ancestors had to face and the solutions they came up with, and also discusses sometimes balmier periods such as the age of the Hohenstaufen dynasty. It will give us new heart to think of climate change as the number one challenge for our generation and to develop more positive approaches to the issue.

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HASH(0x983a22a0) von 5 Sternen An historical perspective 7. Juni 2011
Von Roald Euller - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
This is a recent translation from German of a book originally published in 2007.

While this book is explicitly a history of climate, the author keeps a steady focus on the implications of the historical narrative for the present debate on global warming, about which he has some interesting thoughts.

The book naturally falls into two parts. The first several chapters cover climate history from the origins of the earth 4.6 billion years ago through the present. This is a decent overview although might be a little succinct if this is one's first encounter with this material. The charts and graphs do a good job of supporting the text. Behringer takes pains to point out that the earth is currently in the midst of a several million year long ice age characterized by 100,000 year cycles of glaciation alternating with shorter and warmer interglacials. At present we are getting towards the end of an interglacial, and all other things being equal, we should expect the onset of a new period of glaciation within a few thousand years.

The book devotes more time to the period since the last glacial maximum (LGM) then to the preceding periods, but this is consistent with the book's intended focus on human cultural response to changing climate. There is considerable material on the rise of the Mesopotamian and Egyptian civilizations, and the impact of climate - particularly droughts - on their various crises and collapses. The book then continues through Roman times, the Middle Ages and up to the present. There is interesting material on German archeological sites reflecting the author's nationality. I had not seen much of this material before.

At about the midway point the book switches gears and becomes much more of a traditional "cultural history" with extensive discussion of clothing, food, painting, literature, music, and so forth, during the late medieval warm period and especially during the Little Ice Age from roughly 1300-1850. The author touches on one of his own research areas: perceptions of witches and witchcraft (who were subject to blame for bad weather). The book focuses on the ways in which culture explicitly reflected in climate (e.g. - the increase in winter landscape painting, winter fairs on the frozen Thames). While Behringer realizes that climate was not the sole underlying cause of the evolution of human culture during this period, he certainly wants to give it its full due as an important and somewhat underappreciated factor. Significantly for his conclusion, he tries to highlight how human beings have always reacted and adapted to climate change throughout history.

Much of the material in A Cultural History of Climate overlaps with several volumes authored by Brian Fagan, for example, The Long Summer (2004) and The Little Ice Age (2001). Behringer's style is more concrete, and he is little given to the rambling speculations characteristic of Fagan. I tended to prefer Behringer, although I have in general enjoyed Fagan's books, so it's really a matter of personal taste. Interestingly, I could only find a single reference to Fagan in Behringer's notes, despite the obvious overlap in material and subject matter. I am not aware of an academic rift or rivalry between the two, but since I am not hooked into historical circles that shouldn't count for much. I did find the omission a bit odd given the usual fastidiousness of German scholarship.

The author concludes by saying that the lesson history teaches us is this: Climate change has been a constant through human history. Humans have always adapted, whether during the post glacial warming, the Younger Dryass cold period, the successive droughts of the Mesopotamian/Egyptian period, and during the Little Ice Age. The current crisis is no different from earlier crises. Human society will adapt and change, as it always has. While he is not a climate change denier (in fact he readily acknowledges that the current warming is both well documented and likely of human origin), those who view climate collapse as imminent will not be completely satisfied with A Cultural History of Climate. However, that is the value a long, historical perspective.

The quality of the paperback is quite good. The paper is thick and I suspect it will not turn yellow or brittle over time. The cover is gorgeous, but then Hunters in the Snow is my all time favorite painting.

Overall I really enjoyed this book. If this topic broadly interests you, I suggest reading it in conjunction with any of several books by Brian Fagan, MacDougall's Frozen Earth, Alley's Two Mile Time Machine, or Mithen's After the Ice, to name just a few.
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HASH(0x970bd078) von 5 Sternen Enthralling 30. Dezember 2011
Von Kirialax - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
The premise of 'A Cultural History of Climate' is that Earth's climate is in a constant state of flux over very long periods, and that these changes lead to adaptation or destruction of life in particular ecosystems. However, the real focus of the book is on the influence of climate on human society and how it affects what we eat, wear, and how willing we are to rise up against governments. It must be pointed out that despite Behringer's obvious focus on the climate, he remains a good historian. The philosophical issues behind historical causation are complex and Behringer is too careful to blame climate for every major upheaval in world history although he does an excellent job in making such connections while never going too far with them. This is, perhaps, the greatest strength of this book besides the enthralling translation, as Behringer makes an extremely convincing case that weather patterns have played a role in many major transitions throughout human history. This is very important because too often such things are ignored by historians in favour of the historical data immediately available in their primary sources, and weather does not receive as much attention in such things as it should, especially after this book's publication.

Behringer's runs through the entire history of earth, but the main focus of this book is on human history, starting with the agricultural revolution 10,000 years ago when the climate became less amenable to hunter-gatherer societies through the present day. He brings his audience through the "Roman optimum" to the cooling off in the late antiquity and the early middle ages, although this section is a little spartan. No doubt that lack of contemporary source material compared to the later periods is the cause of this. The book really picks up again in the high middle ages when the source material becomes more abundant and Behringer's case for the medieval warm period allowing the population in the west to expand is very convincing, although his failure to connect the cooling immediately before the Justinianic Plague and the breakout of the Black Death in 1347 is a little curious. In light of recent aetiological work on this topic (namely, Samuel Cohn's The Black Death Transformed: Disease and Culture in Early Renaissance Europe (Arnold Publication), this is definitely a topic worthy of further study.) After this, Behringer devotes a large portion of the book to the "Little Ice Age" and makes some very interesting arguments on its effect on numerous aspects of European society. The books with a short chapter and epilogue that bring the reader up to the present day and engage some of the debates on climate change, arguing that a more historical perspective needs to be understood, and it needs to be taken into account that the climate has always changed a life on earth has always been forced to adapt for it or perish. The discussion of some of the concerns about a new ice age in the 1960s and 1970s are particularly revealing.

This is a fascinating book on the effects of climate change on human civilization throughout history. It is a translation from German, and while it is a particularly clear translation, the fact that much of the cited literature is in German makes further referencing difficult. However, I can not fault the book for this. We are simply fortunate to have this fascinating work translated into English.
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HASH(0x96d442f4) von 5 Sternen Climate is natural, so who do we blame? 17. Juni 2016
Von J. A May - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch Verifizierter Kauf
This is a totally fascinating book. The author is very careful to correlate well documented historical facts with well documented climate changes, so we see the impact. His focus on Europe is understandable given that he is German. He also notes that climatic stress on people causes them to turn on one another, often doing horrible things to people they blame for perfectly natural climatic changes. People have trouble accepting natural changes and often want to find some person or group to blame. In the Ice Age it was witches, today it is oil companies or coal companies. We always want someone to blame. The quote from Archbishop Agobard of Lyon (769-840) on page 69 will always be with me. "In these parts nearly everyone - nobles and common folk, town and country, young and old-believe that human beings can bring about hail and thunder...We have seen and heard how most people are gripped by such nonsense" That could have been written today about any group of environmentalist climate alarmists.

From the penultimate page of the book:
“…cooling has always resulted in major social upheavals, whereas warming has sometimes led to a blossoming of culture. If we can learn anything from the history of culture, it is that, even if humans were ‘children of the Ice Age’, civilization was a product of climatic warming.”

“The future is hard to foresee. Serious scientists should refrain from slipping into the role of Nostradamus. Computer simulations cannot be better than the premises that guided the input of data: they show what is expected to happen, not the actual future. The history of the sciences is also a history of false theories and wrong predictions.”
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HASH(0x96e1ac48) von 5 Sternen I read, and often referred to my copy some ... 24. Juni 2016
Von D. M. Lallatin - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
I read, and often referred to my copy some years ago, and now I can't find it. It's gratifying to see prices too high to justify buying another copy just so my original copy will re-appear near my elbow; which happens with everything else I buy as a replacement. A serious book in a 'department' filled by frauds-earning-tenure.
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HASH(0x96eb9bdc) von 5 Sternen Would recommend and use this provider again 22. August 2014
Von d.r. - Veröffentlicht auf Amazon.com
Format: Taschenbuch
Quick service and item as described. Would recommend and use this provider again.
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