Event: Climate Change & European History, 2 Lectures, NUIG

Prof. Cheyette of Amherst College, Mass is giving two talks on Climate Change and European History in NUI, Galway next week.  Information on the talks is appended.


 In a fascinating public lecture on Thursday, November 28 at 7 pm in Ó Tnúthail Theatre, NUI Galway, Prof. Emeritus Fredric Cheyette of Amherst College, Massachusetts, will talk about two periods in history where climate anomalies marked major changes to society.  The work of paleoclimatologists on the first two millennia of the Common Era has immensely enriched our understanding of food crises and demography in the medieval and early-modern periods.  This talk will focus on two periods in particular: the Little Ice Age and the newly identified Early Medieval Climate Anomaly.

 Prof. Cheyette’s scholarship encompasses royal justice, arbitration and compromise in feudal France; the place of law in the origins of the state; and the history of the Western European landscape from antiquity through medieval times. In the course of reconstructing medieval field patterns and road systems from aerial photographs, he has made discoveries that shed new light on the transition from the Roman Empire to the medieval world.


 Prof. Fredric Cheyette, Professor emeritus of Amherst College, Mass, will give the keynote talk for Imbas: The National University of Ireland, Galway, Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Medieval Conference on Friday, November 29 at 7:30pm in the Moore Institute Seminar Room, Arts-Science Building, NUI, Galway.

 “The fall of the (Western) Roman Empire,” “The Migration Period,” “The Dark Ages”: these are some of the more common names for the period from around 400 C.E to around 800 C.E.  Research of the last twenty-five years has revealed transformations in European settlement patterns, climates, and environments  that suggest a very different way of thinking about these critical centuries of European development.

Prof Cheyette’s interest in this topic began in the 1970s when he began to study aerial photographs of the Mediterranean coastal plain of France in order to understand the landscapes described in documents of the eleventh and twelfth centuries.  He discovered that the structures of the agricultural landscape, already fully developed by the tenth century (and visible on mapping photographs made in the mid-1960s!) were fundamentally different from those that the Romans had imposed on this region 900 years earlier. How did one form of organization vanish so completely and another, very different, take its place? He could ask this question, but nothing in the archaeological literature allowed him to say anything more than “Here is an interesting problem.”   Since then, the development of late Antique and medieval archaeology along with advances in paleo-environmental and paleo-climate sciences have allowed us to specify when this change occurred, and raised interesting questions about how and why it happened.  The evidence points to the decay of rural infrastructures that left Late Iron Age/Roman Mediterranean agriculture vulnerable to a major climate change.

 Imbas, the NUI, Galway Interdisciplinary Postgraduate Medieval Conference, runs from November 29 to December 1. The theme for the 2013 conference is ‘Destruction and Renewal …and back again?’ Further information about the conference is available at www.nuigalway.ie/imbas/imbas2013.html


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