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Durham e-Theses
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Weathering a Medieval Climate: Gauging the impact of natural hazards on northern European society through
archaeology and history, AD 1000-1550

BROWN, PETER,JAMES (2019) Weathering a Medieval Climate: Gauging the impact of natural hazards on northern European society through
archaeology and history, AD 1000-1550.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.

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This thesis investigates the occurrence of meteorological hazards in northern Europe and their impact on society during the medieval period (AD 1000-1550). When high-magnitude meteorological hazards affected vulnerable human populations disasters were the inevitable consequence. These events resulted in highly complex repercussions over the short- and long- terms, touching a wide variety of different spheres of human activity and experience. Additionally, the occurrence of these events was usually sudden and unpredictable in an age when natural processes were poorly understood. As a result, floods, storms and other hazards were widely interpreted through a framework of religious and superstitious beliefs which is widely attested by the historical record. A range of different types of archaeological artefact are also associated with these beliefs and, particularly, in accruing personal protection from a hazardous environment. At the same time, medieval society understood disasters in a practical sense and took steps to minimise risk through constructing flood defences and reinforcing structures damaged by storms. Medieval society, therefore, interpreted disasters through a duality of understanding in which disasters could be the result of spiritual or superstitious causes but could be mitigated through established and well-understood practical solutions. This thesis evaluates this duality in reference to specific case studies and in light of the significant demographic and climatic fluctuations of the medieval period—as a result of the Black Death and the transition to the Little Ice Age.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Natural disasters; medieval archaeology; religion; belief; extreme weather; risk; resilience; adaptation; vulnerability; memory;
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Archaeology, Department of
Thesis Date:2019
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:09 Jul 2019 10:06

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