Institute at Brown for Environment and SocietyIBES

Conflict and Climate Change: Lessons from the Little Ice Age (Dagomar Degroot)

Dec 1, 2017
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Speaker: Dagomar Degroot, Georgetown University

Between 1250 and 1850 CE, a complex mix of natural forces cooled Earth’s climate, and patterns of oceanic and atmospheric circulation responded. In particularly chilly periods of this so-called “Little Ice Age,” subsistence strategies broke down in diverse societies battered by cold snaps, droughts, or torrential rains. A wave of new scholarship by historians and archaeologists has established that resource shortages repeatedly provoked or worsened rebellions within societies, and even wars between them. Yet new research into societal adaptation and resilience to Little Ice Age climate changes has revealed that cooling could also benefit armies and fleets on the battlefield. Climate change therefore altered the character of violence in the early modern world, in ways that may provide parables for our warmer future.


Dagomar Degroot bridges the humanities and the sciences to investigate how people confront changes in the natural world. He is an expert on the history of climate change; the environmental causes and consequences of war; and interdisciplinary methodology. He is passionate about using public and digital histories to break the barriers that too often separate academics from the public. 
In his articles and conference papers, Professor Degroot finds examples of human resilience in the face of climate changes caused by human and natural forces, from the sixteenth century to the present. His ongoing projects trace the human consequences of seventeenth-century cooling in the Arctic; investigate connections between climate change and conflict; and identify social responses to environmental changes in outer space. 
Professor Degroot is the founder and director of, a website that receives more than 200,000 hits annually. He is the co-founder and co-director of the Climate History Network, an organization with more than 150 multidisciplinary members. He hosts the Climate History Podcast, is the secretary of the International Consortium of Environmental History Organizations, and is on the steering committee of the War and Environment Network.
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