In 1816, the climate went berserk. The winter brought extreme cold, and torrential rains unleashed massive flooding in Asia. Western Europe and North America experienced a "year without a summer", while failed harvests in 1817 led to the "year of famine". At the time, nobody knew that all these disturbances were the result of a single event: the eruption of Mount Tambora in what is now Indonesia – the greatest volcanic eruption in recorded history.
In Tambora and the Year without a Summer, leading climate historian Wolfgang Behringer provides a globally comprehensive account of a climate catastrophe that would cast the world into political and social crises for years to come. Concentrating on the period between 1815 and 1820, Behringer shows how this natural occurrence led to worldwide unrest. Analyzing events as diverse as the persecution of Jews in Germany and Peterloo Massacre in the United Kingdom, witch hunts in South Africa and anti-colonial uprisings in Asia, Behringer demonstrates that no region on earth was untouched by the effects of the eruption. Drawing parallels with our world today, the eruption of Mount Tambora and its aftermath becomes a case study for how societies and individuals respond to climate change, what risks emerge and how they might be overcome.
This comprehensive account of the impact of one of the greatest environmental disasters in human history will be of interest to a wide readership and to anyone seeking to understand better how we might mitigate the effects of climate change.
1. Introduction: The Tambora Crisis
2. The year of the explosion: 1815
3. The year without a summer: 1816
4. The year of famine: 1817
5. The turbulent years that followed: 1818–1820
6. The long-range effects of the Tambora Crisis
7. Epilogue: From meaningless to meaningful crisis
Wolfgang Behringer is Professor of Early Modern History at Saarland University. He is the author of several books, including A Cultural History of Climate and Witches and Witch Hunts.
"In this masterly work, Behringer draws on a wealth of detail to demonstrate the profound effects of the Tambora eruption on human society globally. Engagingly written, it will appear to students and scholars of history as well as a wide general readership."
– J. Donald Hughes, University of Denver
"Behringer provides a brilliant illustration of the truly global character of this natural catastrophe and all its ramifications."
– Deutsche Presse-Agentur
"By showing how the planet was completely transformed by extreme weather events some 200 years ago, Behringer offers a highly original contribution to current climate debates."