Beginning in the thirteenth century, natural forces cooled Earth’s climate in a “Little Ice Age” that reached its chilliest point in the seventeenth century and, according to many scholars, destabilized societies around the world. Yet the precocious economy, unusual environment, and dynamic intellectual culture of the Dutch Republic in its seventeenth-century Golden Age allowed it to thrive as neighbouring societies unravelled. The Little Ice Age presented not only challenges for Dutch citizens but also opportunities that they aggressively exploited in conducting commerce, waging war, and creating culture. The overall success of their Republic in coping with climate change offers lessons that we would be wise to heed today, as we confront the growing crisis of global warming.
Dagomar Degroot bridges the humanities and the sciences to explore how societies have thrived - or suffered - in the face of dramatic changes to the natural world. His new book, The Frigid Golden Age (Cambridge University Press) explains how one society - the Dutch Republic - thrived as others faltered when Earth's climate cooled between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. He is currently working on two new books: Civilization and the Cosmos (Harvard University Press), which traces how environmental changes in outer space helped shape the course of human history, and Coping with Climate Change, which unearths examples of societies that thrived amid natural and anthropogenic climate changes over the past millennium. Degroot is the founder and director of HistoricalClimatology.com, a website that receives more than 500,000 hits annually. He is also the co-founder and co-director of the Climate History Network, an organization of nearly 200 academics in humanistic and scientific disciplines. He founded and hosts the Climate History Podcast, and founded Climate Tipping Points, a new project that aims to introduce a broad audience to the local consequences of climate change.