In AD 536, a volcanic eruption meant our planet was enveloped by a cloak of lethal dust which changed the climate for decades. The sun's rays grew dim and total darkness reigned for days. It was a catastrophe of unparalleled proportions. Tens of millions of people died around the globe as a bubonic plague epidemic broke out. But in a way it was only the beginning of the crisis. The waves of migration and the military, political and religious changes which the disaster set in motion re-ordered society throughout the world: the collapse of the Roman Empire, the invasion of the barbarian hordes and the rise of apocalypse-inspired Islam. It was the nearest humankind has ever come to Doomsday and it marked the real beginning of the modern era. The author sets the record straight by placing the pivotal point in world history as the mid-6th-century Dark Ages and shows how our fragile civilization almost ended.
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British TV viewers may have seen a Channel 4 documentary in July 1999 about a catastrophic climate change in the year 535/536 AD. The documentary was based on this book, written by the archaeology correspondent for the Independent newspaper.
David Keys found evidence for the climate change in dendrochronology--the study of patterns of tree rings to provide accurate historical dates. In 535/536 there was almost no tree growth, showing that the climate went haywire. A few documentary sources also point to a year or more of the sky being darkened and the sun paler than the moon.
The author's purpose in this book is threefold: to identify a possible source for this disaster, in a massive volcanic explosion between Java and Sumatra; to point to the likelihood of something similar happening again, with equivalent consequences; but most of all, to examine the impact of this climatic disaster on history.
This, the main part of the book, is the most fascinating, though also perhaps the weakest part of his argument. Keys traces the fall of the Roman Empire and consequent rise of Byzantium, the birth of Islam and many other major changes as powerful nations and civilisations crumbled or were overrun by invading cultures in Europe, Asia, the Far East and central and South America. Even the retreat of the British and the triumph of the Anglo-Saxons is tracked back to the fall-out from the volcano. Some of his arguments are very persuasive, though there are also many weak links, what ifs and maybes--but at least he is honest in expressing these.
However valid or invalid his main thesis, this book provides a splendid worldwide overview of 6th century history, and is valuable for that in itself. --David V BarrettReview:
"A challenging new perspective. [Catastrophe] is original, provocative and should be taken seriously."-HUGH KENNEDY Professor of Early Islamic History, St. Andrews University, Scotland "[Catastrophe is] a radical new approach to historical writing. This is truly a book for the end of the millennium."-DR. MARK HORTON Leading authority on African archaeology, British University "From the Hardcover edition.
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Book Description Ballantine Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0099409844
Book Description Ballantine Books, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # P110099409844