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In the fourteenth century the Old World witnessed a series of profound and abrupt changes in the trajectory of long-established historical trends. Transcontinental networks of exchange fractured and an era of economic contraction and demographic decline dawned from which Latin Christendom would not begin to emerge until its voyages of discovery at the end of the fifteenth century. In a major new study of this 'Great Transition', Bruce Campbell assesses the contributions of commercial recession, war, climate change, and eruption of the Black Death to a far-reaching reversal of fortunes from which no part of Eurasia was spared. The Great Transition synthesises a wealth of new historical, palaeo-ecological and biological evidence, including estimates of national income, reconstructions of past climates, and genetic analysis of DNA extracted from the teeth of plague victims, to provide a fresh account of the creation, collapse and realignment of Western Europe's late medieval commercial economy.
1. Interactions between nature and society in the late medieval world
2. Efflorescence: the enabling environment and the rise of Latin Christendom
3. A precarious balance: mounting economic vulnerability in an era of increasing climatic instability and re-emergent pathogens
4. Tipping point: war, climate change and plague shift the balance
5. Recession: the inhibiting environment and Latin Christendom's late medieval demographic and economic contraction
Epilogue: theory, contingency, conjuncture and the Great Transition
Bruce Campbell is Emeritus Professor of Medieval Economic History at the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast.
"Promises to be the new bible in environmental history."
– Medieval Histories