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The Emergence of Interdisciplinary Environmental History

Collaborative Approaches to the Late Holocene

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 April 2024

Adam Izdebski
Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (Germany) Jagiellonian University in Kraków (Poland)
Kevin Bloomfield
Cornell University (USA)
Warren J. Eastwood
British Institute of Archaeology at Ankara (Turkey) The British Academy (UK)
Ricardo Fernandes
Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (Germany) University of Oxford (UK) Masaryk University (Czech Republic)
Dominik Fleitmann
University of Basel (Switzerland)
Piotr Guzowski
University of Białystok (Poland)
John Haldon
Princeton University (USA)
Francis Ludlow
Trinity College Dublin (Ireland)
Jürg Luterbacher
Justus Liebig University of Giessen (Germany)
Joseph G. Manning
Yale University (USA)
Alessia Masi
Max Planck Institute of Geoanthropology (Germany) Sapienza Università di Roma (Italy)
Lee Mordechai
Hebrew University Jerusalem (Israel)
Timothy P. Newfield
Georgetown University (USA)
Alexander R. Stine
San Francisco State University (USA)
Çetin Şenkul
Süleyman Demirel Üniversitesi (Turkey)
Elena Xoplaki
Justus Liebig University of Giessen (Germany)


With the efflorescence of palaeoscientific approaches to the past, historians have been confronted with a wealth of new evidence on both human and natural phenomena, from human disease and migration to landscape change and climate. These new data require a rewriting of our narratives of the past, questioning what constitutes an authoritative historical source and who is entitled to recount history to contemporary societies. Humanities-based historical inquiry must embrace this new evidence, but to do so historians need to engage with it critically, just as they do with textual and material sources. This article highlights the most vital methodological issues, ranging from the spatiotemporal scales and heterogeneity of the new evidence to the new roles attributed to quantitative methods and the place of scientific data in narrative construction. It considers areas of study where the palaeosciences have “intruded” into fields and subjects previously reserved for historians, especially socioeconomic, climate, and environmental history. The authors argue that active engagement with new approaches is urgently needed if historians want to contribute to our evolving understanding of the challenges of the Anthropocene.

Avec l’efflorescence des approches paléoscientifiques du passé, les historiens ont été confrontés à une multitude de nouveaux indices sur des phénomènes tant humains que naturels, des maladies aux migrations en passant par les transformations du paysage et le climat. Ces données inédites exigent une réécriture des récits portant sur les périodes lointaines, remettant en cause à la fois les fondements de l’autorité des sources historiques traditionnelles et la légitimité des personnes habilitées à narrer le passé aux sociétés contemporaines. Les travaux d’histoire appuyés sur les sciences humaines doivent embrasser ces nouveaux types d’indices; cependant, pour y parvenir, il est nécessaire pour les chercheurs de s’engager dans cette voie de manière critique, comme ils le font pour les sources textuelles et matérielles. Cet article souhaite mettre en lumière les questions méthodologiques les plus essentielles, qui vont des échelles spatio-temporelles et de l’hétérogénéité des nouvelles preuves au rôle à attribuer aux méthodes quantitatives et à la place des données scientifiques dans la construction narrative. Il examine les domaines d’étude où les paléosciences se sont «immiscées» dans des champs et des sujets auparavant réservés aux historiens, notamment l’histoire socio-économique, climatique et environnementale. Les auteurs soutiennent qu’il est urgent pour ces spécialistes d’explorer activement ces pistes novatrices, s’ils entendent contribuer à l’évolution de notre compréhension des défis de l’Anthropocène.

Research Article
© Éditions de l’EHESS 2024

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This article was first published in French as “L’émergence d’une histoire environnementale interdisciplinaire. Une approche conjointe de l’Holocène tardif,” Annales HSS 77, no. 1 (2022): 11–58. It is an outcome of the conference organized by the Climate Change and History Research Initiative at Princeton University in May 2017. Joseph G. Manning, Alexander R. Stine, and Francis Ludlow would like to thank the United States National Science Foundation (NSF) for its generous support (grant no. 1824770 CNH-L, “Volcanism, Hydrology, and Social Conflict: Lessons from Hellenistic and Roman-Era Egypt and Mesopotamia”). Francis Ludlow thanks the Harvard University Center for the Environment for the Ziff Environmental grant and the Initiative for the Science of the Human Past at Harvard for its generous support. Piotr Guzowski thanks the Polish Ministry of Science and Higher Education’s National Program for the Development of the Humanities for its support between 2016 and 2019. Alexander R. Stine also received two grants from the NSF (AGS-1903674 and ICER-1824770). Elena Xoplaki is grateful to the Academy of Athens and the Greek “National Network on Climate Change and Its Impacts” (project 200/937), as well as the German Ministry of Education and Research projects NUKLEUS and ClimXtreme, and the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) project EM-MHeatwaves. The authors thank Niklas Luther of Justus Liebig University Giessen for the analysis and presentation of figures 1 and 2.


1 On ancient DNA, see, for example, Carlos Eduardo G. Amorim et al., “Understanding 6th-Century Barbarian Social Organization and Migration through Paleogenomics,” Nature Communications 9, no. 1 (2018): On cognitive science, see in particular Rob Boddice and Daniel Lord Smail, “Neurohistory,” in Debating New Approaches to History, ed. Marek Tamm and Peter Burke (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2018), 313–18.

2 On the advent of the Anthropocene and its use as a concept by historians, see the thematic dossier “Anthropocene,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 72, no. 2 (2017): 161–272.

3 A recent well-known example is Ulf Büntgen et al., “Cooling and Societal Change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age from 536 to around 660 A. D.,” Nature Geoscience 9, no. 3 (2016): 231–36.

4 Though there have been earlier phases of such interest within the discipline of history, in particular in the context of the Annales school. See, for instance, “History and Climate: Interdisciplinary Explorations,” special issue, Journal of Interdisciplinary History 10, no. 4 (1980). The contemporary phase addressed in the present article is distinguished by huge advances in the scope, accuracy, and precision of the data now provided by the natural sciences, but also by access to historical archives on an unprecedented scale thanks to digitization and new methods of content analysis.

5 Recent examples include Nicholas P. Dunning, Timothy P. Beach, and Sheryl Luzzadder-Beach, “Kax and Kol: Collapse and Resilience in Lowland Maya Civilization,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 10 (2012): 3652–57; Steven Hartman et al., “Medieval Iceland, Greenland, and the New Human Condition: A Case Study in Integrated Environmental Humanities,” Global and Planetary Change 156 (2017): 123–39; Amorim et al. “Understanding 6th-Century Barbarian Social Organization”; Joseph R. McConnell et al., “Lead Pollution Recorded in Greenland Ice Indicates European Emissions Tracked Plagues, Wars, and Imperial Expansion during Antiquity,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 115, no. 22 (2018): 5726–31; Dan Penny et al., “Geoarchaeological Evidence from Angkor, Cambodia, Reveals a Gradual Decline Rather than a Catastrophic 15th-Century Collapse,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, no. 11 (2019): 4871–76.

6 Grégory Quenet, Qu’est-ce que l’histoire environnementale ? (Seyssel: Champ Vallon, 2014).

7 One of the most classical applications of the climate history model is Christian Pfister and Rudolf Brázdil, “Social Vulnerability to Climate in the ‘Little Ice Age’: An Example from Central Europe in the Early 1770s,” Climate of the Past 2, no. 2 (2006): 115–29. For the “feedback” approach, see for instance the introductions to Richard C. Hoffmann, An Environmental History of Medieval Europe (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014); and Verena Winiwarter and Martin Knoll, Umweltgeschichte. Eine Einführung (Cologne: Bölau, 2007).

8 Starting in mature form with the works of Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, notably “Histoire et Climat,” Annales ESC 14, no. 1 (1959): 3–34.

9 Dagomar Degroot et al., “Towards a Rigorous Understanding of Societal Responses to Climate Change,” Nature 591, no. 7851 (2021): 539–50.

10 Adam Izdebski, “Palynology and Historical Research,” in A Companion to the Environmental History of Byzantium, ed. Adam Izdebski and Johannes Preiser-Kapeller (Leiden: Brill, 2022).

11 For example, Robert M. D’Anjou et al., “Climate Impacts on Human Settlement and Agricultural Activities in Northern Norway Revealed through Sediment Biogeochemistry,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109, no. 50 (2012): 20332–37.

12 Spearman’s correlation coefficient measures the strength and direction of the monotonic relationship between two variables. The Spearman rank correlation test does not carry any assumptions about the distribution of the data (unlike the Pearson correlation, which requires normally distributed variables) and is the appropriate correlation analysis when the variables are measured on a scale that is at least ordinal. Spearman’s correlation coefficients range from -1 to +1. The sign of the coefficient indicates whether it is a positive or negative monotonic relationship. A positive correlation means that as one variable increases, the other variable also tends to increase. A negative correlation signifies that as one variable increases, the other tends to decrease. Values close to −1 or +1 represent stronger relationships than values closer to zero.

13 Inga Labuhn et al., “Climatic Changes and their Impacts in the Mediterranean during the First Millennium A.D.,” in Environment and Society in the Long Late Antiquity, ed. Adam Izdebski and Michael Mulryan (Leiden: Brill, 2018), 65–88.

14 John Haldon et al., “Plagues, Climate Change, and the End of an Empire: A Response to Kyle Harper’s The Fate of Rome (1): Climate,” History Compass 16, no. 12 (2018):; Timothy P. Newfield, “The Climate Downturn of 536–50,” in The Palgrave Handbook of Climate History, ed. Sam White, Christian Pfister, and Franz Mauelshagen (London: Palgrave, 2018), 447–93, especially pp. 467–74.

15 That is, analyses based on the spacing between annual growth rings of trees.

16 Ann England et al., “Historical Landscape Change in Cappadocia (Central Turkey): A Palaeoecological Investigation of Annually-Laminated Sediments from Nar Lake,” The Holocene 18, no. 8 (2008): 1229–45.

17 Çetin Şenkul et al., “Late Holocene Environmental Changes in the Vicinity of Kültepe (Kayseri), Central Anatolia, Turkey,” Quaternary International 486 (2018): 107–15.

18 Fernand Braudel, The Mediterranean and the Mediterranean World in the Age of Philip II [1949], 2 vols., trans Siân Reynolds (1972–1973; Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995); Braudel, “Histoire et Sciences sociales. La longue durée,” Annales ESC 13, no. 4 (1958): 725–53.

19 A term he used for the first time in a paper published more than fifty years ago: Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, “Aspects historiques de la nouvelle climatologie,” Revue historique 225, no. 1 (1961): 1–20.

20 Christian Lamouroux, “Chronological Depths and the Longue Durée,” Annales HSS (English Edition) 70, no. 2 (2015): 285–91.

21 The “question of scale” was one of the major concerns during the “crisis” of the Annales in the 1980s; see “Histoire et sciences sociales. Un tournant critique ?” Annales HSS 43, no. 2 (1988): 291–93. For a fuller treatment of the debate over micro vs. macro scales of analysis in French historiography, see Jacques Revel, “Micro-analyse et construction du social,” in Jeux d’échelles. La micro-analyse à l’expérience, ed. Jacques Revel (Paris: Gallimard/Éd. du Seuil, 1996), 15–36; Revel, “Paysage par gros temps,” in La forza delle incertezze. Dialoghi storiografici con Jacques Revel, ed. Antonella Romano and Silvia Sebastiani (Bologna: Il Mulino, 2016), 353–69.

22 Such approaches have also been pioneered within the broader tradition of the Annales school, if we consider the work of the Genoa-based Laboratory of Environmental History and Archaeology led by Diego Moreno. In this case, detailed historical work, particularly in the field of historical geography, provides a new basis for the interpretation of archaeological finds and palaeoenvironmental data. See, for instance, Giulia Beltrametti et al., “Les cultures temporaires, entre longue durée et chronologie fine (Montagne ligure, Italie),” in Cultures temporaires et féodalité. Les rotations culturales et l’appropriation du sol dans l’Europe médiévale et moderne, ed. Christine Rendu and Roland Viader (Toulouse: Presses universitaires du Midi, 2014), 235–58; Valentina Pescini, Carlo Alessandro Montanari, and Diego Teodorico Moreno, “Multi-Proxy Record of Environmental Changes and Past Land Use Practices in a Mediterranean Landscape: The Punta Mesco Cape (Liguria – Italy) between the 15th and 20th Century,” Quaternary International 463 (2018): 376–90.

23 Gérard Chouquer, L’étude des paysages. Essais sur leurs formes et leur histoire (Paris: Errance, 2000), 170–75.

24 The most comprehensive were probably two studies focused on the late antique world: Michael McCormick et al., “Climate Change during and after the Roman Empire: Reconstructing the Past from Scientific and Historical Evidence,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 43, no. 2 (2012): 169–220; and John Haldon et al., “The Climate and Environment of Byzantine Anatolia: Integrating Science, History and Archaeology,” Journal of Interdisciplinary History 45, no. 2 (2014): 113–61. Another well-known example is Büntgen et al., “Cooling and Societal Change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age.” The survey-type approach can also be deployed on a larger scale, even within a historical monograph, as demonstrated by Adam Izdebski, A Rural Economy in Transition: Asia Minor from Late Antiquity into the Early Middle Ages (Warsaw: Taubenschlag Foundation, 2013). A recent example of a large-scale application of this approach is Lee Mordechai et al., “The Justinianic Plague: An Inconsequential Pandemic?” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 116, no. 51 (2019): 25546–54.

25 See Kristina Sessa, “The New Environmental Fall of Rome: A Methodological Consideration,” Journal of Late Antiquity 12, no. 1 (2019): 211–55.

26 There are numerous examples of such situations. For instance, a study presenting a record of lead pollution in a Greenland ice core—most probably related to silver production in Iberia and France during antiquity and the early Middle Ages—was broadly promoted as a reconstruction of Roman GDP, even though the study itself did not go beyond inferences about Roman economic growth (McConnell et al., “Lead Pollution Recorded in Greenland Ice”). Perhaps even more revealing is the career of the “Digitizing Historical Plague” dataset made available in 2012 by a team consisting predominantly of climate scientists: the dataset is based on a positivistic reading of an incomplete and western Europe-focused catalog of late medieval and early modern plague outbreaks published in the 1970s, not meant to be used as a complete quantitative dataset on European plague in preindustrial times. See Ulf Büntgen et al., “Digitizing Historical Plague,” Clinical Infectious Diseases 55, no. 11 (2012): 1586–88, based on Jean-Noël Biraben, Les hommes et la peste en France et dans les pays européens et méditerranéens, 2 vols. (Paris/The Hague: Éd. EHESS/Mouton, 1975). Since its publication, and especially since March 2020, this dataset has served as the basis for many papers on the epidemiology, demography, economic impacts, etc., of the Black Death and later outbreaks of plague in Europe.

27 Laura Sadori et al., “Climate, Environment and Society in Southern Italy during the Last 2000 Years: A Review of the Environmental, Historical and Archaeological Evidence,” Quaternary Science Reviews 136 (2016): 173–88.

28 Ibid.

29 A multi-proxy study employs a number of different analytical techniques to study material from the same sediment core, which allows the reconstruction of a greater number of different environmental variables.

30 Philip Bes, Once Upon a Time in the East: The Chronological and Geographical Distribution of Terra Sigillata and Red Slip Ware in the Roman East (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2015); David K. Pettegrew, “Regional Survey and the Boom-and-Bust Countryside: Re-Reading the Archaeological Evidence for Episodic Abandonment in the Late Roman Corinthia,” International Journal of Historical Archaeology 14, no. 2 (2010): 215–29; Andrew Bevan et al., “Measuring Chronological Uncertainty in Intensive Survey Finds: A Case Study from Antikythera, Greece,” Archaeometry 55, no. 2 (2013): 312–28.

31 Domenico Vera, “Fra Egitto ed Africa, fra Roma e Costantinopoli, fra annona e commercio. La Sicilia nel Mediterraneo tardoantico,” Kokalos 43/44 (1997): 33–72.

32 This is true as long as we consider only the chronology of their issuing: coins could remain in use for much longer periods and it is difficult to provide a general estimate for how long they might circulate. For further discussion, see Marcus Phillips, “Currency in Seventh-Century Syria as a Historical Source,” Byzantine and Modern Greek Studies 28, no. 1 (2004): 13–31.

33 As the authors observe, this may have been linked to Sicily’s decreasing agricultural productivity, so central to the interests of the imperial government in its struggle for survival against the caliphate: Sadori et al., “Climate, Environment and Society in Southern Italy,” 182. See also John Haldon, “Some Thoughts on Climate Change, Local Environment, and Grain Production in Byzantine Northern Anatolia,” in Izdebski and Mulryan, Environment and Society in the Long Late Antiquity, 200–206.

34 Christian Pfister et al., “Daily Weather Observations in Sixteenth-Century Europe,” Climatic Change 43 (1999): 111–50; Urs Gimmi et al., “A Method to Reconstruct Long Precipitation Series Using Systematic Descriptive Observations in Weather Diaries: The Example of the Precipitation Series for Bern, Switzerland (1760–2003),” Theoretical and Applied Climatology 87 (2007): 185–99; Stephen O’Connor et al., “A Weather Diary from Donegal, Ireland 1846–1875,” Weather 76, no. 12 (2021): 385–91.

35 Joost Huijs, Reinhard Pirngruber, and Bas van Leeuwen, “Climate, War and Economic Development: The Case of Second-Century BC Babylon,” in A History of Market Performance: From Ancient Babylonia to the Modern World, ed. Robertus J. van der Spek, Bas van Leeuwen, and Jan Luiten van Zanden (London: Routledge, 2015), 128–48; Johannes Haubold, John Steele, and Kathryn Stevens, eds., Keeping Watch in Babylon: The Astronomical Diaries in Context (Leiden: Brill, 2019).

36 These sources can nevertheless exhibit biases. For instance, they often fail to capture longer-term changes in background average climate conditions, especially if such trends occur over or beyond the lifespan of individual observers, as noted by Raymond S. Bradley and Philip D. Jones, introduction to Climate since A.D. 1500, ed. Raymond S. Bradley and Philip D. Jones (London: Routledge, 1995), 1–16; and M. J. Ingram, D. J. Underhill, and G. Farmer, “The Use of Documentary Sources for the Study of Past Climates,” in Climate and History: Studies in Past Climates and Their Impact on Man, ed. T. M. L. Wigley, M. J. Ingram, and G. Farmer (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981), 180–213. Indeed, a similar challenge is faced when reconstructing long-term changes over centuries and millennia from tree-ring samples that individually span smaller segments of time: Edward R. Cook et al., “The ‘Segment Length Curse’ in Long Tree-Ring Chronology Development for Palaeoclimatic Studies,” The Holocene 5, no. 2 (1995): 229–37.

37 See, for example, McCormick et al., “Climate Change during and after the Roman Empire”; Sébastian Guillet et al., “Climatic and Societal Impacts of a ‘Forgotten’ Cluster of Volcanic Eruptions in 1108–1110 CE,” Scientific Reports 10 (2020):; Günter Blöschl et al., “Current European Flood-Rich Period Exceptional Compared with Past 500 Years,” Nature 583, no. 7817 (2020): 560–66.

38 Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Times of Feast, Times of Famine: A History of Climate since the Year 1000 [1967], trans. Barbara Bray (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1971), 275.

39 A scarcity that has long been noted: Hubert H. Lamb, Climate, History and the Modern World (London: Routledge, 1995). For prominent examples of such usage, see Michael McCormick, Paul E. Dutton, and Paul A. Mayewski, “Volcanoes and the Climate Forcing of Carolingian Europe, A. D. 750–950,” Speculum 82, no. 4 (2007): 865–95 (as well as the statistical appendix by Nick Patterson); and Christian Pfister et al., “Winter Air Temperature Variations in Western Europe during the Early and High Middle Ages (AD 750–1300),” The Holocene 8, no. 5 (1998): 535–52.

40 Daniel McCarthy, The Irish Annals: Their Genesis, Evolution and History (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2008).

41 Francis Ludlow et al., “Medieval Irish Chronicles Reveal Persistent Volcanic Forcing of Severe Winter Cold Events, 431–1649 CE,” Environmental Research Letters 8, no. 2 (2013):

42 See Bruce M. S. Campbell and Francis Ludlow, “Climate, Disease and Society in Late-Medieval Ireland,” Proceedings of the Royal Irish Academy 120C (2020): 159–249; Donnchadh Ó Corráin, “Ireland c. 800: Aspects of Society,” in A New History of Ireland, vol. 1, Prehistoric and Early Ireland, ed. Dáibhí Ó Cróinín (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), 549–608.

43 John Moreland, “AD 536 – Back to Nature?” Acta Archaeologica 89, no. 1 (2018): 91–111.

44 Francis Ludlow, “Utility of the Irish Annals as a Source for the Reconstruction of Climate” (PhD diss., Trinity College Dublin, 2011); Daniel McCarthy and Aidan Breen, “Astronomical Observations in the Irish Annals and their Motivation,” Peritia 11 (1997): 1–43; Mark Williams, Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales, 700–1700 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010).

45 Such criticisms were often made of work by Hubert H. Lamb and Gordon Manley (albeit while emphasizing their pioneering status): Astrid E. Ogilvie and Graham Farmer, “Documenting the Medieval Climate,” in Climates of the British Isles: Past, Present and Future, ed. Mike Hulme and Elaine Barrow (London: Routledge, 1997), 112–34.

46 Rudolf Brázdil et al., “Historical Climatology in Europe: The State of the Art,” Climatic Change 70 (2005): 363–430.

47 Francis Ludlow and Charles Travis, “STEAM Approaches to Climate Change, Extreme Weather and Social-Political Conflict,” in The STEAM Revolution: Transdisciplinary Approaches to Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Humanities and Mathematics, ed. Armida de la Garza and Charles Travis (New York: Springer, 2019), 33–65.

48 Joseph G. Manning et al., “Volcanic Suppression of Nile Summer Flooding Triggers Revolt and Constrains Interstate Conflict in Ancient Egypt,” Nature Communications 8 (2017):

49 Fekri A. Hassan, “Historical Nile Floods and Their Implications for Climatic Change,” Science 212 (1981): 1142–45; Luke Oman et al., “High-Latitude Eruptions Cast Shadow over the African Monsoon and the Flow of the Nile,” Geophysical Research Letters 33, no. 18 (2006):; Brian Zambri and Alan Robock, “Winter Warming and Summer Monsoon Reduction after Volcanic Eruptions in Coupled Model Intercomparison Project 5 (CMIP5) Simulations,” Geophysical Research Letters 43, no. 20 (2016): 10920–28.

50 Joseph G. Manning, The Last Pharaohs: Egypt Under the Ptolemies, 305–30 BC (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010), 117–64.

51 Ibid.

52 John D. Grainger, The Syrian Wars (Leiden: Brill, 2010).

53 These ranks were adapted from Danielle Bonneau, Le fisc et le Nil. Incidences des irrégularités de la crue du Nil sur la fiscalité foncière dans l’Égypte grecque et romaine (Paris: Éd. Cujas, 1971).

54 Michael Sigl et al., “Timing and Climate Forcing of Volcanic Eruptions for the Past 2,500 Years,” Nature 523, no. 7562 (2015): 543–49; Matthew Toohey and Michael Sigl, “Volcanic Stratospheric Sulfur Injections and Aerosol Optical Depth from 500 BCE to 1900 CE,” Earth System Science Data 9, no. 2 (2017): 809–31.

55 The dates of these ten revolts (or, more precisely, the dates of the beginning of potential revolts) were selected by Manning et al., “Volcanic Suppression of Nile Summer Flooding Triggers Revolt,” following Anne-Emmanuelle Veïsse, Les révoltes égyptiennes. Recherches sur les troubles intérieurs en Égypte du règne de Ptolémée III à la conquête romaine (Leuven: Peeters, 2004).

56 Joseph G. Manning, Land and Power in Ptolemaic Egypt: The Structure of Land Tenure (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

57 Eighty-four sales dated with sufficient precision were identified. For more details, see Manning et al., “Volcanic Suppression of Nile Summer Flooding Triggers Revolt.”

58 Allowing for some small uncertainties in revolt onset and eruption date. Experimentation with a fuller (though potentially less accurate) list of possible revolt onsets was also conducted and a statistically significant association still observed. See Francis Ludlow and Joseph G. Manning, “Revolts under the Ptolemies: A Paleoclimatological Perspective,” in Revolt and Resistance in the Ancient Classical World and the Near East: The Crucible of Empire, ed. John J. Collins and Joseph G. Manning (Leiden: Brill, 2016), 154–71.

59 Manning et al., “Volcanic Suppression of Nile Summer Flooding Triggers Revolt.”

60 Ibid., 7.

61 Such background conditions, which can also be considered as making a “causal” contribution, act to make the association between explosive volcanism and revolt “probabilistically causal” rather than deterministic.

62 Stefan Pfeiffer, Das Dekret von Kanopos (238 v. Chr.). Kommentar und historische Auswertung eines dreisprachigen Synodaldekretes der ägyptischen Priester zu Ehren Ptolemaios’ III. und seiner Familie (Munich: K. G. Saur, 2004).

63 Ludlow and Manning, “Revolts under the Ptolemies.”

64 For recent overviews of studies linking climate to society, which also consider concerns over environmental determinism, along with quantitative or statistical approaches, see Bas J. P. van Bavel et al., “Climate and Society in Long-Term Perspective: Opportunities and Pitfalls in the Use of Historical Datasets,” WIREs Climate Change 10, no. 6 (2019):; Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, Andrea Seim, and Heli Huhtamaa, “Climate and Society in European History,” WIREs Climate Change 12, no. 2 (2021):

65 Aryn Martin and Michael Lynch, “Counting Things and People: The Practices and Politics of Counting,” Social Problems 56, no. 2 (2009): 243–66, here p. 243 (emphasis in the original).

66 This problem extends beyond historical climatology. For instance, in the context of the proliferation of histoire sérielle (quantitative history) in twentieth-century French historiography, several major figures remarked on the “impossibility of concluding” (l’impossibilité de conclure). This term was used by Bernard Lepetit in a review article from 1989, in which he refers to earlier quantitative historians such as François Furet, who had made the same observation two decades before: Bernard Lepetit, “L’histoire quantitative. Deux ou trois choses que je sais d’elle,” Histoire & mesure 4, no. 3/4 (1989): 191–99, here p. 193. This observation resembles more recent critiques of the “cliometric” approach in economic history: see Francesco Boldizzoni, The Poverty of Clio: Resurrecting Economic History (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2011). The cliometricians (economic historians focused solely on analyzing quantitative data from the past) have been accused of being inconclusive or at times forcing a priori theories on the historical evidence before analyzing the data itself.

67 In some instances, there is a fundamental ambiguity over whether a phenomenon should even be considered an “event” as opposed to a “process,” with implications for how it should be best categorized or quantified.

68 A point well made concerning cliometrics and economic history by Joshua L. Rosenbloom, “The Good of Counting,” introduction to Quantitative Economic History: The Good of Counting, ed. Joshua L. Rosenbloom (London: Routledge, 2008), 1–7, here p. 2.

69 Richard B. Stothers and Michael R. Rampino, “Volcanic Eruptions in the Mediterranean before AD 630 from Written and Archaeological Sources,” Journal of Geophysical Research 88, no. B8 (1983): 6357–71, brought together and recontextualized four writers from the late antique Mediterranean, each of whom made incidental reference to strange climatic and meteorological disturbances that, when taken together, suggested the existence of a powerful volcanic eruption. Signs of post-eruption cooling in the tree-ring data were found by M. G. L. Baillie, “Dendrochronology Raises Questions about the Nature of the AD 536 Dust-Veil Event,” The Holocene 4, no. 2 (1994): 212–17. Apparent dating discrepancies were resolved in Sigl et al., “Timing and Climate Forcing of Volcanic Eruptions.” For a recent overview, see Newfield, “The Climate Downturn of 536–50,” 452–63.

70 Though not all scholars agree with this interpretation. See Joel D. Gunn, ed., The Years without Summer: Tracing A.D. 536 and Its Aftermath (Oxford: Archaeopress, 2000); Büntgen et al., “Cooling and Societal Change during the Late Antique Little Ice Age”; Kyle Harper, The Fate of Rome: Climate, Disease, and the End of an Empire (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2017).

71 Stothers and Rampino, “Volcanic Eruptions in the Mediterranean before AD 630.” A global perspective on the eruption, from Yucatán to China, is found in the papers collected in Gunn, The Years without Summer: without the volcanic framework, there would be little to tie together such varied subjects as Roman epistolography and Mayan hydraulics. Cassiodorus’s account of the 536 event is discussed in both its climatic and philosophical contexts in Harper, The Fate of Rome, 251–52, with a broader discussion of the event at pp. 249–59. The bibliography on the 536 event is both vast and steadily accumulating. For more references, see recent works by Kyle Harper and Timothy Newfield.

72 Samuli Helama, Phil D. Jones, and Keith R. Briffa, “Dark Ages Cold Period: A Literature Review and Directions for Future Research,” The Holocene 27, no. 10 (2017): 1600–606; Helama, Jones, and Briffa, “Limited Late Antique Cooling,” Nature Geoscience 10, no. 4 (2017): 242–43; Haldon et al., “Plagues, Climate Change, and the End of an Empire.”

73 An exception is Antti Arjava, “The Mystery Cloud of 536 CE in the Mediterranean Sources,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 59 (2005): 73–94.

74 Cassiodorus, Variae 12.25; for an English translation, see The Variae: The Complete Translation, trans. M. Shane Bjornlie (Oakland: University of California Press, 2019), 493–95. On the historical and literary contexts, see M. Shane Bjornlie, Politics and Tradition between Rome, Ravenna and Constantinople: A Study of Cassiodorus and the Variae, 527–554 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013).

75 Cassiodorus, Variae 12.25.2.

76 Cassiodorus, Variae 12.25.3 (trans. The Variae, 494).

77 Cassiodorus, Variae 12.25.6.

78 Cassiodorus, Variae 12.25.2 (trans. The Variae, 494); Pliny the Elder, Natural History 2.98. Note the exact matches in the Latin for Cassiodorus (“Quod non eclipsis momentaneo defectu, sed totius paene anni agi niholiminus constat excursu”) and Pliny (“Fiunt prodigiosi et longiores solis defectus, qualis occiso dictatore Caesare et Antoniano bello totius paene anni pallore continuo”).

79 On Caesar’s comet, see John T. Ramsey and A. Lewis Licht, The Comet of 44 B.C. and Caesar’s Funeral Games (Atlanta: Scholars Press, 1997). Similar to the 536 event, the climatic disturbances of 43 BCE were likely the result of a volcanic eruption, possibly the Okmok volcano in Alaska’s Aleutian Islands; see Joseph R. McConnell et al., “Extreme Climate after Massive Eruption of Alaska’s Okmok Volcano in 43 BCE and Effects on the Late Roman Republic and Ptolemaic Kingdom,” Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 117, no. 27 (2020): 15443–49.

80 Cassiodorus, Variae 12.25.5 (trans. The Variae, 494).

81 Plutarch, Caesar 69.4; trans. Christopher Pelling, Plutarch: Caesar (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2011), 128.

82 Archaeologiczne Zdjȩcedil;cie Polski,; Ryszard Mazurowski, Metodyka archeologicznych badań powierzchniowych (Warsaw: Państ. Wydaw. Naukowe, 1980).

83 Jan M. Piskorski, “The Medieval Colonization of Central Europe as a Problem of World History and Historiography,” in The Expansion of Central Europe in the Middle Ages, ed. Nora Berend (London: Routledge, 2017), 215–36.

84 Teodor Tyc, Poczatki kolonizacji wiejskiej na prawie niemieckim w Wielkopolsce (1200–1333) (Poznań: Drukiem K. Miarki, 1924); Konstanty Jan Hładyłowicz, Zmiany krajobrazu i rozwój osadnictwa w Wielkopolsce od xiv do xix wieku (Lviv: Kasa im. Rektora J. Mianowskiego, 1932); Karol Stefański, “Wsie na prawie niemieckim w Wielkopolsce w latach 1333–1370,” Roczniki Historyczne 37 (1971): 1–36.

85 Antoni Gasiorowski, “Krajobraz naturalny i rozwój osadnictwa. Organizacja społeczna i rozwój gospodarstwa wiejskiego,” in Historia Wielkopolski do roku 1795, ed. Jerzy Topolski (Poznań: Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, 1969), 254–61, here p. 256.

86 Stanisław Kuraś, Przywileje prawa niemieckiego miast i wsi małopolskich xivxv wieku (Wrocław: Instytut Historii Polskiej Akademii Nauk, 1971), 111.

87 Sambor Czerwiński et al., “Environmental Implications of Past Socioeconomic Events in Greater Poland during the Last 1200 Years: Synthesis of Paleoecological and Historical Data,” Quaternary Science Reviews 259 (2021):

88 Czerwiński et al., “Environmental Implications of Past Socioeconomic Events.” Note that the same research team has demonstrated that large-scale colonization with a profound ecological impact could also occur within one generation, in special circumstances when the financial and institutional capacities were available. See Mariusz Lamentowicz et al., “How Joannites’ Economy Eradicated Primeval Forest and Created Anthroecosystems in Medieval Central Europe,” Scientific Reports 10, no. 1 (2020):

89 Another recent example of a similar approach is Martin Bauch, “Die Magdalenenflut 1342 am Schnittpunkt von Umwelt- und Infrastrukturgeschichte,” NTM Zeitschrift für Geschichte der Wissenschaften, Technik und Medizin 27, no. 3 (2019): 273–309.

90 Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Histoire du climat depuis l’an mil (Paris: Flammarion, 1967); Le Roy Ladurie, Times of Feast, Times of Famine.

91 Emmanuel Le Roy Ladurie, Histoire humaine et comparée du climat, 3 vols. (Paris: Fayard, 2004–2009).

92 Ellsworth Huntington, Civilization and Climate (1915; New Haven: Yale University Press, 1924); Franciszek Bujak, Nauka, społeczeństwo, historia (Warsaw: Państ. Wydaw. Naukowe, 1976).

93 As discussed in Adam Izdebski et al., “Realising Consilience: How Better Communication between Archaeologists, Historians and Natural Scientists Can Transform the Study of Past Climate Change in the Mediterranean,” Quaternary Science Reviews 136 (2016): 5–22.

94 Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1973).

95 Ibid.

96 Of course, such approaches have made their way into the discipline of history, where they have attracted much public attention. See, for instance, Ronnie Ellenblum, The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean: Climate Change and the Decline of the East, 950–1072 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012); and in particular Harper, The Fate of Rome.

97 For resilience’s origins within ecology, see C. S. Holling, “Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems,” Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics 4 (1973): 1–23. On the utility of resilience applied to human societies, see Carl Folke, “Resilience: The Emergence of a Perspective for Social-Ecological Systems Analyses,” Global Environmental Change 16, no. 3 (2006): 253–67.

98 There are many definitions of resilience, but “the tendency to understand resilience as resistance to change is ubiquitous in the literature”: Lennart Olsson et al., “Why Resilience Is Unappealing to Social Science: Theoretical and Empirical Investigations of the Scientific Use of Resilience,” Science Advances 1, no. 4 (2015):, here p. 2.

99 Inter alia, see Adam Izdebski, Lee Mordechai, and Sam White, “The Social Burden of Resilience: A Historical Perspective,” Human Ecology 46, no. 3 (2018): 291–303; Elena Xoplaki et al., “Modelling Climate and Societal Resilience in the Eastern Mediterranean in the Last Millennium,” Human Ecology 46, no. 3 (2018): 363–79; Xoplaki et al., “The Medieval Climate Anomaly and Byzantium: A Review of Evidence on Climatic Fluctuations, Economic Performance and Societal Change,” Quaternary Science Reviews 136 (2016): 229–52; Xoplaki et al., “Hydrological Changes in Late Antiquity: Spatio-Temporal Characteristics and Socio-Economic Impacts in the Eastern Mediterranean,” in Climate Change and Ancient Societies in Europe and the Near East: Diversity in Collapse and Resilience, ed. Paul Erdkamp, Joseph G. Manning, and Koenraad Verboven (Cham: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), 533–60; Tamara Lewit, “A Viewpoint on Eastern Mediterranean Villages in Late Antiquity: Applying the Lens of Community Resilience Theory,” Studies in Late Antiquity 4, no. 1 (2020): 44–75. A 2018 special issue of the journal Human Ecology was devoted to the question of historical resilience in the face of climatic strain; see John Haldon and Arlene Rosen, “Society and Environment in the East Mediterranean ca. 300–1800 CE: Problems of Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation; Introductory Essay,” Human Ecology 46, no. 3 (2018): 275–90.

100 Le Roy Ladurie, Times of Feast, Times of Famine.

101 The most recent examples are van Bavel et al., “Climate and Society in Long-Term Perspective”; and Charpentier Ljungqvist, Seim, and Huhtamaa, “Climate and Society in European History.”