The great floods of 1953 in Eastern and Southern England inspired Basil Cracknell to write this book, at a time when he was finishing his thesis on changing land and sea levels in the Thames estuary. He decided to map the impact of medieval sea level rise for the whole of the coastline of Britain, and half a century (and a great deal of meticulous research and extensive travel) later, that seed has borne fruit in this ground-breaking book. Incredibly, although the disasters caused by medieval global warming and rising sea levels have been described as 'among the worst recorded in human history anywhere in the world', until now no attempt has been made to paint a complete picture of what happened at this time. A vital part of our nation's history has thus been curiously neglected - but this fascinating book closes that glaring gap.
The author first reviews the physical and historical evidence for medieval global warming. There follows a detailed study of coastal change in 19 stretches of British coastline, from Berwick-on-Tweed to Carlisle and Scotland. It is profusely illustrated, with 136 maps and charts and many photographs, which vividly demonstrate the changes described by the narrative. The book ends by analysing the effects of medieval global warming on Britain's coastline (which was permanently changed, with 217 towns and villages destroyed by the sea), and some lessons are drawn for today's global warming.
This book makes a seminal and unique contribution to the growing literature on global warming, whilst its focus on individual localities, with many informative maps, gives it appeal to anyone passionate about British local history. With Britain facing anew the trauma of sea level rise, and with many coastal districts already facing the agonising choice between huge expenditure on sea defences and 'managed retreat', the publication of such a book at this time is indeed opportune.