EGU24-19686, updated on 11 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Climate variability and food (in)security in medieval and early modern Europe: synthesising the state-of-the-art

Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist1,2,3, Andrea Seim4,5, and Dominik Collet6
Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist et al.
  • 1Stockholm University, Department of History, Stockholm, Sweden (
  • 2Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University, Stockholm, Sweden
  • 3Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala, Sweden
  • 4Chair of Forest Growth and Dendroecology, Institute of Forest Sciences, University of Freiburg, Freiburg, Germany
  • 5Department of Botany, University of Innsbruck, Innsbruck, Austria
  • 6Department of Archaeology, Conservation and History, University of Oslo, Oslo, Norway

On the basis of our new state-of-the-art research review article “Famines in medieval and early modern Europe – Connecting climate and society”, published in WIREs Climate Change this year, we provide an overview of recent scholarship on food insecurity and famines in Europe during the medieval and early modern periods (c. 700–1800). Focus is placed on how, and to what extent, climatic change and variability can explain the occurrence and severity of food shortages and famines during these periods. Current research, supported by recent advances in palaeoclimatology, has revealed that anomalous cold conditions were the main environmental backdrop for severe food production crises that could result in famines in pre-industrial Europe. Such food crises occurred most frequently between c. 1550 and 1710 during the climax of the Little Ice Age cooling. They can, to a large extent, be connected to the strong dependency on grain in Europe during this period and the limited possibility for long-distance transportation of bulk goods in inland regions. The available body of research demonstrates that famines in medieval and early modern Europe can be best understood as the result of the interactions of climatic and societal stressors responding to pre-existing societal vulnerabilities. We provide some recommendations for future studies on historical food shortages and famines in connection to climatic stress on food production.

How to cite: Charpentier Ljungqvist, F., Seim, A., and Collet, D.: Climate variability and food (in)security in medieval and early modern Europe: synthesising the state-of-the-art, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-19686,, 2024.