Skip to content
BY-NC 4.0 license Open Access Published by De Gruyter 2020

Teleconnections, Correlations, Causalities between Nature and Society? An Introductory Comment on the “Crisis of the Fourteenth Century”

From the book The Crisis of the 14th Century

  • Martin Bauch and Gerrit Jasper Schenk


The introductory comment revisits older discussions in medieval studies about the “Crisis of the Fourteenth Century,” connecting it - as recent studies suggest - to a general increase in the intensity and frequency of natural extreme events between the turn of the century and the ravages of the Black Death in mid-century. New approaches to this period of transition examine how societal phenomena coincided with rapid or gradual environmental changes and attempt to establish the relationship between causality and correlation; these methods challenge - albeit without reverting to climatic or environmental determinism - established historiographical paradigms that have tended to explain social facts via other social facts (Durkheim). Hence, the introduction discusses new theoretical tools in environmental history like consilience, resilience, vulnerability, and man-nature-interaction models, such as, for example, those developed by the Vienna School (Winiwarter), but also approaches which have received less attention, like Luhmann’s ecological communication, the Panarchy model (Gunderson/Holling), and Lovelock’s Gaia hypothesis. In the interest of promoting a pragmatic heuristic perspective, the editors expand on the idea of societal teleconnections of meteorological extreme events (Moser/Finzi Hart), as this concept integrates delayed effects and feedback loops, acknowledges spatial crosslinks, and avoids hierarchical impact-levels. Applying the meteorological term “teleconnection” in social historical studies allows for the discovery of “strange parallels” (Lieberman) in the socio-economic development of otherwise unconnected areas of the world, and these synchronicities, in turn, open avenues for the further development of a global pre-modern environmental history.

© 2019 Walter de Gruyter GmbH, Berlin/Munich/Boston
Downloaded on 21.3.2023 from
Scroll Up Arrow