Climate and Political Climate: Environmental Disasters in the Medieval Levant

Climate and Political Climate: Environmental Disasters in the Medieval Levant

by Sarah Kate Raphael


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Climate and Political Climate: Environmental Disasters in the Medieval Levant by Sarah Kate Raphael

The twelfth and thirteenth centuries in the Levant saw a substantial rise in the number of droughts. This coincided with some of the most violent tectonic activity the region had witnessed. Nature, however, could conjure other powerful disasters: swarms of locusts, armies of mice, scorching winds and thick dust storms. The data for this research is drawn from contemporary Arabic and Latin sources. The main aim is to try and determine the long and short-term repercussions of environmental, disasters on the political, military and social affairs in the Levant during the Crusader, Ayyubid and Mamluk periods. Did environmental disasters spur o binder conflict? This research: examines the most destructive disasters and gradual climate chances within broader historical context.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9789004216563
Publisher: Brill Academic Publishers, Inc.
Publication date: 02/15/2013
Series: Brill's Series in the History of the Environment , #3
Pages: 212
Product dimensions: 6.30(w) x 9.50(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Sarah Kate Raphael, Ph. D. (2008), The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, Israel. Currently works as an archaeologists in Jerusalem. She has published articles on the medieval Levant and a book, Muslim Fortresses in the Levant Between Crusaders and Mongols (Routledge, 2010).

Table of Contents

List of Figures, Tables and Maps ix

Acknowledgements xiii

Notes on Transliteration xv

Abbreviations xvii

Introduction 1

Historical Background 4

The Geographical Framework 5

Resources, Environmental Disasters and Conflict 6

Part 1 Droughts and Famines

1 A Short Survey of Climate in the Levant, Iraq and North Africa 13

The Definition of Drought 19

Assessing the Severity of Medieval Droughts 21

2 Agriculture in Greater Syria 29

The Agricultural Hinterlands of the Syrian Cities 30

Grain-growing Regions in the Eastern Mediterranean 33

Salination, Soil Erosion and Black Winds 40

Animal Husbandry and the Role of Nomadic Tribes 44

Drawing the Line: Defending Sedentary Interests 52

3 Preparing for and Coping with Droughts and Famines 55

Granaries and Storage Conditions: Fortresses in the Levant and their Role as Granaries 56

Preparing for and Coping with Droughts among Nomads 68

Rituals, Famine Foods and the Question of Cannibalism 69

4 Droughts and Famines: Social, Military and Political Consequences 73

Conflicts and Peace Treaties Driven by Droughts and Famines 74

1178-1181, the Longest of the Twelfth-Century Droughts 76

The Longest of the Thirteenth-Century Droughts 87

Mega Droughts across the Middle East 90

5 The Fourteenth Century: Gradual Changes in the Weather 95

Long and Short-term Relief Programs Initiated by al-Nasir Muhammad 97

The End of the Medieval Warm Period in the Levant (?) 101

Rare and Unusual Weather Tales 106

Part 2 Earthquakes and the Politics of Mass Destruction

Assessing the Force of Historical Earthquakes 115

A Brief Geological Survey of Faults and Plate Tectonics in the Levant 118

6 Twelfth and Early Thirteenth Century Earthquakes and their Impact on Crusader-Muslim Affairs 127

I Feel the Earth Move under My Feet: Twelfth Century Earthquakes 127

The 1202 Earthquake-A Link in a Series of Peace Treaties 138

Domestic Architecture and Earthquakes 143

Raw Materials and Structural Behaviour 144

Trial and Error-Some Archaeological Evidence Depicting Changes in Fortress Construction 147

The Citadel of Damascus 150

Crac des Chevaliers (Hisn al-Akrad) 151

The Round Free Standing Tower at Safad 155

The Mamluk Octagonal Towers at al-Subayba and Karak 158

The Active Fault below the Crusader Fortress of Vadum Jacob 161

Part 3 Small and Destructive Enemies

7 The Curse of Insects and Rodents on an Agricultural Based Economy 167

Locusts 168

Recipes for Disasters 172

Waves of Mice and Rats 178

Part 4 Dearth, Crisis and Violence

8 Climatic Fluctuations, Political Stability and Military Strength 187

Glossary 195

Bibliography 197

Index 209

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