1709; The Disparate Economic And Political Impact of Weather And Climate.

by Dr. Tim Ball on December 2, 2015

in Historical,History,Theory

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) 2001 Report claimed that neither the Medieval Warm Period (MWP) nor the Little Ice Age (LIA) occurred. They created the ‘hockey stick’ graph to prove their point. It wasn’t produced specifically to eliminate those climate periods but to show that today was warmer than “ever” before and that most of the increase occurred in the 20th century. Their nemesis was a graph presented in the 1990 Report (Figure1).


Figure 1

The dotted line on the graph is the average temperature of the Northern Hemisphere for the last 1000 years. The ‘hockey stick’ allowed them to claim the 20th century as anomalous. They had to eliminate the natural temperature increase from the nadir of the LIA in 1680. They also rejected historical evidence of the events, but the facts don’t go away. Their scientific manipulations were exposed, although few understood or realized the gravity. Others refuse to face facts, as Paul Ehrlich’s mindless review of Mark Steyn’s book attests. However, few are familiar with the historic evidence because most don’t read history, fewer read climate history and most don’t know how much climate changes. If you are 80 years old, you have lived through four climate changes; the warming from 1900 to 1940, the cooling from 1940 to 1980, the warming from 1980 to 2000 and the slight cooling from 2000 to the present. There are individual years within each period that had a significant impact. The summer of 1934, the winter of 1936, the winter of 1947 and so on.

Historic Reports

The year 1709 is one that stands out during the LIA. It was a particularly cold year in a long cold spell. Gabriele Bella (1733 -99) painted his vision of people cavorting on a frozen lagoon in 1708 (Figure 1a).


Figure 1a

Ven(ice)? 1708

People were painfully aware of the cold conditions. To help them cope the Reverend John Shower gave and published a sermon in 1695 titled, “Winter Meditations: or, a Sermon concerning Frost, and Snow, and Winds, &c.” He produced a second edition in 1709 (Figure 2).


Figure 2

John Shower’s Sermon.

England was hard hit in what they called The Great Frost. The impact was greater in France where they called it Le Grand Hiver. Estimates place related deaths in France, mostly due to famine, to 600,000 by the end of 1710. Of course, the famine did not affect Francoise-Marie de Bourbon, Duchess of Orleans, who only complained of the cold. She wrote,

“I am sitting by a roaring fire, have a screen before the door, which is closed, so that I can sit here with a sable fur piece around my neck and my feet in a bearskin sack and I am still shivering with cold and can barely hold the pen. Never in my life have I seen a winter such as this one,”

Today we call these “first world problems.” The Duchess died of natural causes in 1749 so missed a likely unnatural death during the French Revolution. The death would have been at the hands of descendants of the peasants who suffered and died while she shivered. Here was what was happening to them, according to a report from Beaune in Burgundy.

“Travelers died in the countryside, livestock in the stables, wild animals in the woods; nearly all the birds casino died, wine froze in barrels and public fires were lit to warm the poor,”

Naturalists were measuring and observing the conditions. William Derham, a contributor to the Royal Society Philosophical Transactions, recorded a low of -12°C on the night of January 5, 1709. The low temperatures were wide scale because,

People across Europe awoke on 6 January 1709 to find the temperature had plummeted. A three-week freeze was followed by a brief thaw – and then the mercury plunged again and stayed there. From Scandinavia in the north to Italy in the south, and from Russia in the east to the west coast of France, everything turned to ice. The sea froze. Lakes and rivers froze, and the soil froze to a depth of a metre or more. Livestock died from cold in their barns, chicken”s combs froze and fell off, trees exploded and travellers froze to death on the roads. It was the coldest winter in 500 years.

IPCC and ‘hockey stick’ supporters attacked claims about the invalidity of their work saying the MWP and the LIA were, at best, regional. This was based partly on the fact that 7c was for the Northern Hemisphere. However, much historic evidence shows they were global. For example, in New York for April 5, 1709,

The cold is so intense that water thrown upon the ground at noon freezes immediately in NYC.

Notice the comment that “trees exploded”. What does it mean? Derham produced a summary later in the year when he wrote.

Fish froze in the rivers, game lay down in the fields and died, and small birds perished by the million. The loss of tender herbs and exotic fruit trees was no surprise, but even hardy native oaks and ash trees succumbed.

Economic Impact

International trade was stretching around the world as the rich and powerful reached out for opportunities. Creation of the Hudson’s Bay Company in 1670 was a good example. In 1690, the Company London warehouse was full of furs but they were all gone and demand significantly increased after 1710. The furs were for the Duchess of Orleans and her English counterparts. The profits were for the English Royal family and a few select investors. With colonial expansion import of an increasing variety of products created financial opportunities. Every wealthy person wanted part of the trade but also the latest most exclusive item to signify their wealth. Consider the following,

The pineapple made its way to England in the 17th century and by the 18th century, being seen with one was an instant indicator of wealth — a single pineapple could cost the equivalent of $8,000 today. In fact, the fruit was so desirable and rare that consumers often rented a pineapple for the night to show off to fellow party-goers.

Mahogany (Swietenia mahagoni) from the West Indies, especially Jamaica, was one exotic product trying to establish itself in furniture of the houses of the powerful (Figure 3).


Figure 3  Swietenia mahagoni

Most of the furniture in Royal and aristocratic homes across Europe was made from European Walnut (Juglans regia) Figure 4. Walnut, especially Burl Walnut with its fantastic colors and patterns, is still the wood of choice for luxury cars like a Rolls Royce.

Figure 4 European walnut

Naturally, there was resistance to imports of mahogany from Central America by walnut producers. Before1709, walnut was the wood of choice for furniture makers in Europe and the wealthy. It is hard to imagine that few people had even basic furniture. Samuel Pepys’ diaries give a good insight into the amount and value of furniture. He clearly measures his financial and social success by the furniture he can afford. In southern England, where walnut was introduced, along with chestnut trees, during the warmer Roman period, it was not as plentiful but still very much desired.

Estimates claim that the frost killed half the walnut trees. The trees “exploded” when the sap froze and destroyed the cell structure causing large slits in the trunk. Loss of the resource didn’t force an immediate change because furniture producers let the wood mature for up to five years after it was cut; they had a stockpile. This shrunk and forced change when in 1720 France banned exports of walnut. As a result, in 1721 English furniture producers appreciated reduction of tariffs on mahogany from Jamaica under the Naval Stores Act.

The English furniture producers needed a suitable replacement and began pushing for change.

they realised mahogany’s unique properties – its ability to hold finer detail than walnut and its higher comparative strength.

The final stage occurred in 1733 when Sir Robert Walpole (1676 – 1745) eliminated all taxes on imported timber. Walpole is considered the first prime minister. His power and wealth were expressed in the construction of Houghton Hall (Figure 5).


Figure 5 Palladian Architecture of Houghton Hall, Home of Sir Robert Walpole

Much of the furniture, including Walpole’s desk and dining table, are made of mahogany (Figure 6). The furniture and designs from Houghton are so highly regarded that a modern Houghton Furniture Company continues the tradition.


Figure 6: Houghton Hall Dining Room

Maybe when the oil company cheque arrives, I will be able to afford such luxuries, but I still will not be able to vote for who leads the country. Canada has a new Prime Minister, chosen by a Liberal Party that received only 39 percent of the vote. It is a continuance of the aristocratic patronage practiced by the Duchess of Orleans and Walpole. The Liberal Party chose the Prime Minister because they know what is best for the citizens. His energy policies for Canada parallel those of Ontario so the people will be left out in the cold once again.