The Dance of Death in Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe: Environmental Stress, Mortality and Social Response, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

The Dance of Death in Late Medieval and Renaissance Europe

Environmental Stress, Mortality and Social Response, 1st Edition

Edited by Andrea Kiss, Kathleen Pribyl


272 pages | 43 B/W Illus.

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Hardback: 9781138590366
pub: 2019-12-19
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This volume investigates environmental and political crises that occurred in Europe during the late Middle Ages and the early Modern Period, and considers their effects on people’s lives. At this time, the fragile human existence was imagined as a ‘Dance of Death’, where anyone, regardless of social status or age, could perish unexpectedly. This book covers events ranging from cooling temperatures and the onset of the Little Ice Age, to the frequent occurrence of epidemic disease, pest infestations, food shortages and famines.

Covering the mid-fourteenth to mid-seventeenth centuries, this collection of essays considers a range of countries between Iceland (to the north), Italy (to the south), France (to the west) and the westernmost parts of Russia (to the east). This wide-reaching volume considers how deeply climate variability and changes affected and changed society in the late medieval to early modern period, and asks what factors, other than climate, interfered in the development of environmental stress and socio-economic crises.

This book will be of great interest to students and scholars of Environmental and Climate History, Environmental Humanities, Medieval and Early Modern History and Historical Geography, as well as Climate Change and Environmental Sciences.

Table of Contents



1. Famines, mortality, livestock deaths and scholarship: environmental stress in Iceland ca. 1500-1700 Astrid E.J. Ogilvie

2. Winter severity in medieval Sweden: the documentary evidence Dag Retsö and Johan Söderberg

3. The Grain trade, economic distress and social disorder at a time of environmental stress in East Anglia, 1400-ca. 1440 Kathleen Pribyl

4. War, climatic stress and environmental degradation during the 15th and 16th centuries: the case of the north Flemish coastal landscape in the estuary of the Western Scheldt Adriaan M.J. de Kraker


5. From the alpine mountain height to the Swiss Lake District: climate and society in the city and Republic of Berne from the 14th to the 16th centuries Chantal Camenisch

6. Apocalyptic riders in the borderlands: dealing with locust invasion, diseases and war in fifteenth- and sixteenth-century Eastern and Southern Austria Christian Rohr

7. A dynamic interplay of weather, biological factors and socio-economic interactions: late 15th-century-early 16th-century crises in Hungary Andrea Kiss

8. The extreme year of 1540 in terms of climate variation from the perspective of historical sources derived from the Polish and Baltic territories Wiesław Nowosad and Piotr Oliński


9. Migration patterns from Dalmatian hinterland during and after the great hunger of 1453-1454 as consequence of environmental and political crisis Zrinka Nikolić Jakus

10. The "Danse Macabre" among climatic variability, famines and epidemics in Northern Italy during the 15th and 16th centuries: an overview through documentary sources Silvia Enzi, Francesca Becherini and Mirca Sghedoni

11. ‘Toute chose se desnature’: environmental changes of the 14th century in the perspective of contemporary witnesses (c. 1330-1400) Thomas Labbé

12. Chronology and impact of a global moment in the thirteenth century: the Samalas eruption revisited Martin Bauch

About the Editors

Andrea Kiss is a research fellow at the Institute of Hydraulic Engineering and Water Resources Management at the Vienna University of Technology, Austria, also affiliated with the Department of Auxiliary Historical Sciences at the University of Szeged in Hungary.

Kathleen Pribyl is an associate fellow at the Climatic Research Unit at the University of East Anglia, UK, and also affiliated with the Oeschger Centre of Climate Change Research at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

About the Series

Routledge Environmental Humanities

From microplastics in the sea to hyper-trends such as global climate change, mega-extinction, and widening social disparities and displacement, we live on a planet undergoing tremendous flux and uncertainty. At the center of this transformation is human culture, both contributing to the state of the world and responding to planetary change. The Routledge Environmental Humanities Series seeks to engage with contemporary environmental challenges through the various lenses of the humanities and to explore foundational issues in environmental justice, multicultural environmentalism, ecofeminism, environmental psychology, environmental materialities and textualities, Traditional Ecological Knowledge, environmental communication and information management, multispecies relationships, and related topics. The series is premised on the notion that the arts, humanities, and social sciences, integrated with the natural sciences, are essential to comprehensive environmental studies.

The environmental humanities are a multidimensional discipline encompassing such fields as anthropology, history, literary and media studies, philosophy, psychology, religion, sociology, and women’s and gender studies; however, the Routledge Environmental Humanities is particularly eager to receive book proposals that explicitly cross traditional disciplinary boundaries, bringing the full force of multiple perspectives to illuminate vexing and profound environmental topics. We favor manuscripts aimed at an international readership and written in a lively and accessible style. Our readers include scholars and students from across the span of environmental studies disciplines and thoughtful citizens and policy makers interested in the human dimensions of environmental change.

Please contact the Editor, Rebecca Brennan ([email protected]), to submit proposals.

Praise for A Cultural History of Climate Change (2016):

A Cultural History of Climate Change shows that the humanities are not simply a late-arriving appendage to Earth System science, to help in the work of translation. These essays offer distinctive insights into how and why humans reason and imagine their ‘weather-worlds’ (Ingold, 2010). We learn about the interpenetration of climate and culture and are prompted to think creatively about different ways in which the idea of climate change can be conceptualised and acted upon beyond merely ‘saving the planet’.

Professor Mike Hulme, King's College London, in Green Letters

Series Editors:

Professor Scott Slovic, University of Idaho, USA

Professor Joni Adamson, Arizona State University, USA

Professor YUKI Masami, Kanazawa University, Japan

Previous editors:

Professor Iain McCalman, University of Sydney Research Fellow in History; Director, Sydney University Environment Institute.

Professor Libby Robin, Fenner School of Environment and Society, Australian National University, Canberra; Guest Professor of Environmental History, Division of History of Science, Technology and Environment, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm Sweden.

Dr Paul Warde, Reader in Environmental History, University of Cambridge, UK

Editorial Board

Christina Alt, St Andrews University, UK, Alison Bashford, University of New South Wales, Australia, Peter Coates, University of Bristol, UK, Thom van Dooren, University of New South Wales, Australia, Georgina Endfield, Liverpool UK, Jodi Frawley, University of Western Australia, Andrea Gaynor, The University of Western Australia, Australia, Christina Gerhardt, University of Hawai'i at Mānoa, USA,□Tom Lynch, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, USA, Jennifer Newell, Australian Museum, Sydney, Australia , Simon Pooley, Imperial College London, UK, Sandra Swart, Stellenbosch University, South Africa, Ann Waltner, University of Minnesota, US, Jessica Weir, University of Western Sydney, Australia

International Advisory Board

William Beinart,University of Oxford, UK, Jane Carruthers, University of South Africa, Pretoria, South Africa, Dipesh Chakrabarty, University of Chicago, USA, Paul Holm, Trinity College, Dublin, Republic of Ireland, Shen Hou, Renmin University of China, Beijing, Rob Nixon, Princeton University, USA, Pauline Phemister, Institute of Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, UK, Sverker Sörlin, KTH Environmental Humanities Laboratory, Royal Institute of Technology, Stockholm, Sweden, Helmuth Trischler, Deutsches Museum, Munich and Co-Director, Rachel Carson Centre, LMU Munich University, Germany, Mary Evelyn Tucker, Yale University, USA, Kirsten Wehner, University of London, UK

Learn more…

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
HISTORY / Europe / General
HISTORY / Medieval
HISTORY / Renaissance
NATURE / Ecology