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The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War, and the Famine History Forgot

The Third Horseman: A Story of Weather, War, and the Famine History Forgot

by William Rosen


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The incredible true story of how a cycle of rain, cold, disease, and warfare created the worst famine in European history—years before the Black Death, from the author of Justinian's Flea and the forthcoming Miracle Cure

In May 1315, it started to rain. For the seven disastrous years that followed, Europeans would be visited by a series of curses unseen since the third book of Exodus: floods, ice, failures of crops and cattle, and epidemics not just of disease, but of pike, sword, and spear. All told, six million lives—one-eighth of Europe’s total population—would be lost.

With a category-defying knowledge of science and history, William Rosen tells the stunning story of the oft-overlooked Great Famine with wit and drama and demonstrates what it all means for today’s discussions of climate change.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780143127147
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 04/28/2015
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 443,686
Product dimensions: 5.40(w) x 8.40(h) x 1.00(d)
Age Range: 18 Years

About the Author

William Rosen, author of Miracle CureThe Third HorsemanJustinian’s Flea, and The Most Powerful Idea in the World, was an editor and a publisher at Macmillan, Simon & Schuster, and the Free Press for nearly twenty-five years.

Table of Contents

List of Maps xiii

Prologue: Eight Crowns in Boulogne 1308 1

Chapter 1 "The Fury of the Northmen" 793-1066 6

Chapter 2 "Henceforth Be Earls" 1066-1298 29

Chapter 3 "Penalty for Their Betters" 1298-1307 59

Chapter 4 "Douglas's Larder" 1307-1312 88

Chapter 5 "Scots, Wha Hae" 1313-1315 107

Chapter 6 "The Floodgates of the Heavens" 1315-1316 122

Chapter 7 "A Dearness of Wheat" 1316-1317 142

Chapter 8 "She-Wolf of France" * 1313-1320 165

Chapter 9 "The Dearest Beef I've Ever Seen" 1320-1322 192

Chapter 10 "The Mouse Tower of Bingen" 800-1323 213

Chapter 11 "Long Years of Havoc" 1323-1328 233

Epilogue: The Delicate Balance 254

Acknowledgments 261

Notes 263

Bibliography 281

Index 291

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

Praise for The Third Horseman

“A kink in Europe’s climate during the fourteenth century indirectly triggered a seven-year cataclysm that left six million dead, William Rosen reveals in this rich interweaving of agronomy, meteorology, economics and history.... Rosen deftly delineates the backstory and the perfect storm of heavy rains, hard winters, livestock epidemics, and war leading to the catastrophe.”

“Rosen... delights in the minutiae of history, down to the most fascinating footnotes... Engrossing.... A work that glows from the author’s relish for his subject.”
“Rosen (The Most Powerful Idea in the World) argues persuasively that natural disasters are most catastrophic when humankind’s actions give them a push. The depredations committed in battle by Englishmen and Scots were augmented by years of bad weather: the result was that people died in droves. The interactions Rosen describes have been studied but are seldom incorporated into popular history, and the author never overreaches in his conclusions, providing a well-grounded chronicle.... This book will appeal foremost to history lovers, but it should also interest anyone who enjoys a well-documented story.”
--Library Journal

William Rosen is a good enough writer to hold interest and maintain the fraught relations between nature and politics as a running theme. He ends The Third Horseman with a stark observation: in some ways, global ecology is more precarious nowadays than it was in the 1300s.”
Milwaukee Express
“Rosen is a terrific storyteller and engaging stylist; his vigorous recaps of famous battles and sketches of various colorful characters will entertain readers not unduly preoccupied by thematic rigor.... Rosen’s principal goal, however, is not to horrify us, but to make us think.... While vividly re-creating a bygone civilization, he invites us to look beyond our significant but ultimately superficial differences and recognize that we too live in fragile equilibrium with the natural world whose resources we recklessly exploit, and that like our medieval forebears we may well be vulnerable to ‘a sudden shift in the weather.’”
The Daily Beast
Praise for William Rosen
“Rosen is a natural and playful storyteller.”
The New York Times
“Rosen has a facility for the telling anecdote and the quirky aside.”
—Bill Gates
“[Rosen] writes what might be called champagne prose: it slips down quick and easy but carries a punch.”
The Telegraph (UK)

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