270 pages, 15 b/w illustrations, 8 b/w maps, 2 tables
As a 'Medieval Warm Period' prevailed in Western Europe during the tenth and eleventh centuries, the eastern Mediterranean region, from the Nile to the Oxus, was suffering from a series of climatic disasters which led to the decline of some of the most important civilizations and cultural centres of the time. This provocative study argues that many well-documented but apparently disparate events – such as recurrent drought and famine in Egypt, mass migrations in the steppes of central Asia, and the decline in population in urban centres such as Baghdad and Constantinople – are connected and should be understood within the broad context of climate change. Drawing on a wealth of textual and archaeological evidence, Ronnie Ellenblum explores the impact of climatic and ecological change across the eastern Mediterranean in this period, to offer a new perspective on why this was a turning point in the history of the Islamic world.
"We have long been familiar with the famines that struck Egypt in the mid-1000s, but Ellenblum is the first to show how these are part of a broad regional pattern. This comprehensive and clearly argued book advances our understanding of the complex political, social, and economic processes of the late tenth and eleventh century in SW Asia and, more broadly, our capacity to link these processes to those underway in other parts of Eurasia."
– Stephen Humphreys, University of California, Santa Barbara
"To climatologists who study the past by looking into geological and chemical evidence imprinted in silent natural archives, Ellenblum's work adds the missing element of contemporaneous human observation, experience, and response. His thorough synthesis of numerous documents that reported the occurrence of extreme climate events, weaved together across space and time with records of related conflict and civic system response, adds an invaluable resource for understanding how climate varied in the past and how it has affected humanity."
– Yochanan Kushnir, Lamont Research Professor, Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory
"Ellenblum has mined sources from many languages, ancient and modern, especially those of chroniclers writing in Arabic, to construct a powerful story: from northeastern Africa through Central Asia severe droughts and extreme cold conditions in the tenth and eleventh centuries resulted in famines, migrations, anarchy, wars, the fall of states, and all manner of social, economic, and political dislocations. No study on 'collapse' and its consequences is as persuasive as this one."
– Norman Yoffee, Professor Emeritus, University of Michigan
"Fluent, persuasive, iconoclastic and provocative [...]"
– History Today
"This book contains a gold mine of written descriptions for the time period that should be useful for scholars."
– Journal of Historical Geography
Part I. The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean
1. Presenting the events
2. Deconstructing a 'collapse'
3. 950-1027 - an impending disaster
Part II. Regional Domino Effects in the Eastern Mediterranean, 1027-60 AD
4. The collapse of Iran
5. The fall of Baghdad
6. A crumbling empire: the Pechenegs and the decimation of Byzantium
7. Egypt and its provinces, 1050s-1070s
Part III. Cities and Minorities
8. Jerusalem and the decline of classical cities
9. Water supply, declining cities and deserted villages
10. Food crises and accelerated Islamization
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Ronnie Ellenblum is an Associate Professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and a life member of Clare Hall, University of Cambridge. He is the author of the prize-winning Crusader Castles and Modern Histories (Cambridge University Press, 2007). His first book, Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Cambridge University Press, 1998), has become a standard work for the study of Crusader Geographies.