Weather Writing in England’s Maunder Minimum (1645-1715)
My research concerns literary and intellectual responses to the extraordinary weather of the late 17th century. There was a striking reduction in solar energy received on Earth between the years 1645 and 1715 – a period known as the Maunder Minimum. Historians frequently use contemporary literary sources to evidence the weather of this period and the role it played in harvest failures, famine and social unrest. This literature, however, is not merely evidence for extraordinary weather – it is also evidence for an extraordinary cultural response to weather. This study analyses the literary, personal and scientific weather-writing produced in this period of intellectual ferment. Resisting the narrative of cultural destruction in the face of climate change, it emphasises weather’s potential as a creative catalyst. Located at the junction of science and life-writing literatures, this research asks how people conceived of the relationship between weather and their own lives – and how people constructed a common language to discuss this relationship. Critics have occasionally considered the effects of weather on culture in other countries and at other times; but the Maunder Minimum – the period with the most extreme weather, the richest weather-writing and the most fruitful developments in weather science – remains unstudied. This thesis will challenge current understandings of how climate impacts culture and of how literary and scientific form accommodated a focus on weather.