Climate and the Atlantic World: Hurricanes, El Niño, La Niña, and Drought in the Eighteenth and Nineteenth Centuries

AHA Session 205
Saturday, January 5, 2013: 2:30 PM-4:30 PM
Conti Room (Roosevelt New Orleans)
Christof Mauch, Rachel Carson Center for Environment and Society, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München
John R. McNeill, Georgetown University

Session Abstract

This panel brings together scholars working on new directions in environmental history by examining the consequences of climate cycles as catalysts for historical change in varying regions of the Atlantic World. The geographic scope of the panel ranges from New Orleans, to the American South and the Caribbean, to sub-Saharan Africa; the chronological scope ranges from the eighteenth through the nineteenth centuries. All three scholars examine whether climate and/or weather-generated events--hurricanes or drought--were the catalysts for permanent change within their regions.  Focusing on New Orleans’ French period (1722-1765), in the first paper, Eleanora Rohland argues that local environmental knowledge as well as ‘imported’ technological knowledge were key for the French gaining a foothold in the Mississippi delta. In the second paper,  Sherry Johnson situates her analysis in recent scientific studies that demonstrate a dramatic shift from an El Niño to the "long La Niña" after 1730 and hypothesizes whether case studies from the hurricane belt were representative of worldwide patterns. In our final presentation,  Joshua Souliere investigates long-term drought in the early 19th century to determine its effect as a forcing element in political destabilization of the old empire (Oyo) and in subsequent international migration patterns in the trans-Atlantic slave trade.

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