The first European explorers and settlers in North America came woefully unprepared for the novel environments and climates they encountered in the New World. Popular understanding equated climates with latitudes and vastly underestimated the stronger continental seasons that Spanish, English, and French would find across the Atlantic. A cooling climate and large volcanic eruptions during the late 1500s only added to their challenges. One expedition after another arrived in America and Canada only to collapse under the stress of droughts, freezing winters, and untimely storms. This presentation, drawn from the author’s forthcoming book, retells early colonial history as a story of confusions, disasters, conflicts, and survival as Europeans met a harsh and uncertain climate. It offers a case study in how the combination of written and physical evidence, historical and paleoclimate records, might help us rethink our history and even offer insights for the present.
Slides will be added here following the presentation.
Sam White is associate professor of environmental history at the Ohio State University. His research specializes in historical climate reconstruction and impacts, combining physical and written evidence. He has published various articles on climate, disease, and animals in human history, co-edited the first major textbook in climate history, and written two monographs: The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe's Encounter with North America (Harvard University Press, in review). With Dagomar Degroot, he is the co-founder and director of the Climate History Network.