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The Collapse of the Eastern Mediterranean
Climate Change and the Decline of the East, 950–1072


  • Date Published: December 2013
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781107688735

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Introduces a wealth of new data on the Medieval Climatic Anomaly, of interest to climatologists and scientists as well as historians, classicists, archaeologists and anthropologists
    • Offers a new approach to the history of the Mediterranean and the Islamic World during the Middle Ages
    • Presents a detailed narrative of the impact of climatic change on civilizations, as well as its subsequent domino effects
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    Reviews & endorsements

    '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

    'The study of environmental history in the early Middle Ages is still very much in its infancy; thus Ronnie Ellenblum's contribution, not least because it argues so lucidly for a real climatic impact in various areas of human activity, is to be welcomed wholeheartedly.' Mark Humphries, Early Medieval Europe

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2013
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781107688735
    • length: 284 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 15 mm
    • weight: 0.38kg
    • contains: 15 b/w illus. 8 maps 2 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    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 Baghdād
    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
    11. Reflections.

  • Author

    Ronnie Ellenblum, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    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, 2007). His first book, Frankish Rural Settlement in the Latin Kingdom of Jerusalem (Cambridge, 1998), has become a standard work for the study of Crusader Geographies.

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