The Potential of Late Medieval and Early Modern Narrative Sources from the Area of Modern Switzerland for the Climate History of the Fourteenth Century

Camenisch, Chantal GND

The fourteenth century is known to have witnessed several significant envi-ronmental and climatological events. This paper analyses Swiss narrative sources to appraise their potential for further study of medieval historical climatology. It exam-ines a number of sources – dating to the fourteenth, fifteenth, and sixteenth centu-ries – and their references to these fourteenth-century events.These sources mention major historical events including the Great Famine of 1315 to 1322, the Black Death, floods, and an extremely cold winter. Although they describe some extreme weather events at length, not all of the texts examined mention all the major events, and there are errors in the dating, as well. Such sources do not regularly refer to the weather in general. A reconstruction of the climate in the area of modern Switzerland relying solely on these historical documents is therefore impossible, but they do provide valuable information on various aspects of fourteenth-century envi-ronmental and climate history, especially when correlated with other types of climate reconstructions.