Dr Vinita Damodaran, University of Sussex
The paper examines the links between climate signals, environment and livelihoods in the long seventeenth century in the context of India. A central premise emerging among some seventeenth century historians is that the synchronicity of the many disorders of mid-seventeenth century Eurasia was no accident but linked to climatic conditions between 1610 and the winter of 1708-9 which as the historian Geoffrey Parker argues led to three natural forces combining in this period, to generate cooler temperatures and greater climatic variability- reduced solar energy, increased volcanic activity and a greater frequency of El Niño. The El Niño southern oscillation also disrupted the Asian monsoons and North American rainfall. The idea of a global crisis in the seventeenth century is here to stay and the fact that climate formed an integral part of it is accepted by these historians. Was climate change the primary agent of seventeenth century demographic change? The paper argues for an approach which more usefully focuses on regional and national differences and the resilience of agricultural production in the face of population pressure, exogenous shocks and environmental change.