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In the 17th century, a world wrecked by climate

Geoffrey Parker’s unsettling new look at an earlier moment of upheaval

Droughts, wildfires, floods, storms: Climate change appears to be exacerbating these phenomena around the world. And in the United States, at least, preparations for the impact of global warming on our lives are paltry.

If history is any guide, however, these “natural” disasters may be just the beginning—at least, that’s the implication of a comprehensive new book by British historian Geoffrey Parker, “Global Crisis: War, Climate Change & Catastrophe in the Seventeenth Century.” Behind a tumultuous and grueling series of revolutions, wars, and famines, which ultimately killed off a third of the human population, was a culprit, he writes: a period of global cooling known as the Little Ice Age. Extreme weather caused crop failures, which led to hunger, disease, and forced migrations, which in turn translated to political and social chaos.

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