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The Great Transition
Climate, Disease and Society in the Late-Medieval World


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  • Date Published: June 2016
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521144438

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About the Authors
  • In the fourteenth century the Old World witnessed a series of profound and abrupt changes in the trajectory of long-established historical trends. Transcontinental networks of exchange fractured and an era of economic contraction and demographic decline dawned from which Latin Christendom would not begin to emerge until its voyages of discovery at the end of the fifteenth century. In a major new study of this 'Great Transition', Bruce Campbell assesses the contributions of commercial recession, war, climate change, and eruption of the Black Death to a far-reaching reversal of fortunes from which no part of Eurasia was spared. The book synthesises a wealth of new historical, palaeo-ecological and biological evidence, including estimates of national income, reconstructions of past climates, and genetic analysis of DNA extracted from the teeth of plague victims, to provide a fresh account of the creation, collapse and realignment of Western Europe's late medieval commercial economy.

    • Major new account of the fourteenth-century crisis when climate change, disease and a transformation of the military and political balance of power reshaped the medieval world
    • Provides a fresh account of the creation, collapse and realignment of Western Europe's late medieval commercial economy
    • Synthesises a wealth of new historical, palaeo-ecological and biological evidence
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    • Winner, 2017 Gyorgy Ranki Biennial Prize, Economic History Society

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Promises to be the new bible in environmental history.' Medieval Histories (

    'Bruce M. S. Campbell's latest book is grounded in prodigious reading from a wide range of disciplines, cutting across fields of agricultural, geographical, economic, social and church history, and into the latest findings in the genetics of Yersinia pestis and especially climate history.' Samuel J. Cohn, Jr, The English Historical Review

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    Product details

    • Date Published: June 2016
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521144438
    • length: 485 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 162 x 23 mm
    • weight: 0.77kg
    • contains: 93 colour illus. 12 tables
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Interactions between nature and society in the late medieval world
    2. Efflorescence: the enabling environment and the rise of Latin Christendom
    3. A precarious balance: mounting economic vulnerability in an era of increasing climatic instability and re-emergent pathogens
    4. Tipping point: war, climate change and plague shift the balance
    5. Recession: the inhibiting environment and Latin Christendom's late medieval demographic and economic contraction
    Epilogue: theory, contingency, conjuncture and the Great Transition

  • Author

    Bruce M. S. Campbell, Queen's University Belfast
    Bruce Campbell is Emeritus Professor of Medieval Economic History at the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology, Queen's University Belfast.


    • Winner, 2017 Gyorgy Ranki Biennial Prize, Economic History Society
    • Shortlisted, 2017 Turku Book Award, Environmental Society for European History and the Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society

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