WAR!: And Being Hungry In The Rain

the_third_horsemanTHE THIRD HORSEMAN: CLIMATE CHANGE AND THE GREAT FAMINE OF THE 14th CENTURY

William Rosen ISBN: 0670025895

Before I begin, let’s get one thing straight. I love me a bit of Black Death. Plague? Bring it on*. I also love meteorology and all that Earth Science business. Needless to say, when the author of Justinian’s Flea comes up with another evocatively titled tome hinting at that crazy little climate anomaly a few decades prior to the Black Death, my heart does a little hop, skip and jump… then promptly falls into a vat of lukewarm melted chocolate.

I wanted so much to enjoy this book; to be awash with tales of mediaeval nutrition, crop management practices, yield data and climate data. And, yes, these topics were discussed throughout but were they worthy of the book title†? The title implies the Great Famine and the Mediaeval Climate Anomaly will be at the crux of the volume but in reality they are small asides to the Scottish War of Independence and other political intrigue. These battles and machinations are all essential background to and interwoven with the Great Famine but here they are not so much background as foreground with some nasty rain sprinkled in for good measure.

For all that it is a slight case of false advertising, the book is no less neatly written and certainly a fascinating insight into rulers good, bad and indifferent. I mean, who doesn’t love learning from history‡.

Perhaps I could be so bold as to direct the marketing a little more in the direction of accurate. I suggest a drastic title change. Let’s call it, The Second Horseman: Scottish Heroes, Royal Hammers and the Great Soap Opera of Edward II… of the 14th CenturyWith cameos from the Great Famine, Climate Change and Veterinary Virology 101. Too long? Maybe something pithier like, WAR!: And Being Hungry in the Rain.

There, that’s better.

Rosen delivers the kind of writing that makes history accessible to general readers without being patronisingly simple. Think Alison Weir (the non-fiction era) or the wonderful Simon Winder.

If you’re a fan of Mssrs Longshanks, Wallace, the Bruce, of French She-Wolves and England’s first almost openly “out” monarch, then do have a read. It might be misleadingly named but we’ve fixed that. That’s the sort of thing we can achieve when we all work together.

* Via information, obviously. I like pustules as much as the next man but I prefer my glands to remain bubo free.

† That’s right, I started a sentence with a conjunction, what of it?

‡ Rhetorical question but the answer is right-wing politicians.

About Jamie Ashbird

Jamie Ashbird was born from an egg on a mountain top. At least that's what she keeps telling people. In fact she was born, quite boringly, from a uterus and was raised in Melbourne. It is here, in her native habitat, that she roams about watching the world go by and quietly judging people. She is also a writer... ahem, apologies, typo... she is almost a writer but wastes too much of her time watching other people play video games on YouTube.
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2 Comments

  1. It might have been rain, but from all accounts it was at least unseasonably warm rain.

  2. Nice review!

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