I am traveling this weekend. I’ve left the comforts of hearth and home and set out for the big, bad city–the Los Angeles area, to be certain–to accept a research fellowship at the Huntington Library in Pasadena, California. I will be working on research for my upcoming dissertation, which will eventually be a book, tentatively entitled Ten Years of Winter. The above photograph is a view from the gardens of the Huntington Library & Botanical Gardens, a truly amazing enclave of 18th/19th century peace and calm in the bustling urban jungle of southern California.
Ten Years of Winter is an environmental history about climate change in the early 19th century. The decade of the 1810s was an extraordinary one in the climatic history of our planet. A series of gigantic volcanic eruptions in 1809, 1812, 1814 and most notably April 1815 (Mt. Tambora) pumped an unprecedented amount of particulate matter into the Earth’s atmosphere, resulting in bizarre changes to the world’s climate. The most notable examples–snow in July, frosts in August, weird animal die-offs and crop failures, famines, religious panics, etc.–occurred in 1816, the “Year Without Summer,” but the strange weather persisted from 1810 to 1820, a period that also saw the beginnings of meteorology as a science, as well as technological developments, like the steamship, that sought to “conquer” the limitations of weather and climate in human society. These things are not coincidences. My research is how these strange weather patterns affected human society and the development of science as we know it.
I have no idea what I’ll find in the stacks of the Huntington Library. Maybe it’s blog-worthy; maybe not. In any event, I’ll try to keep you updated on the major milestones of my journey, however that may filter down to you, the readers. Thank you everyone for your interest and support. This meme, which was suggested by a friend of mine the day I received the Huntington fellowship, is for you!