Wednesday, September 16, 2020

Cow trials and climate change

Sorry for the long silence! I just got April's Environmental History in the mail, and there's an interesting article by Keith Pluymers, "Cow Trials, Climate Change, and the Causes of Violence". The abstract:

In 1641, according to the vicar Thomas Johnson, Irish rebels in Mayo, in “meere hatred and derision of the English,” tried a group of English cattle for unspecified charges. They were convicted and executed. Many historians have pointed to this striking event as an example of the deep hatred underlying popular violence in the rebellion. The trials, however, were merely the most spectacular iteration of long-standing conflicts over transformations in animal husbandry between the Munster Plantation in the 1580s and the rebellion of the 1640s. The new pastoralism that emerged during these decades threatened traditional practices and landscapes while creating new vulnerabilities to poor weather and economic downturns. The combination of economic crises and harsh weather associated with the Little Ice Age exposed these vulnerabilities. The cow trials show that environmental forces shaped the 1641 Rebellion but demonstrate that historians assessing the impacts of climate and weather must attend to the social and economic contexts that produce vulnerability.

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