Professor Alan Mikhail recently received the Leopold-Hidy Prize for Best Article in Environmental History for his essay, “Ottoman Iceland: A Climate History” (April 2015 issue of Environmental History).
In June 1783, the Laki volcanic fissure began erupting in Iceland. It would continue to do so for the next eight months. One of the largest volcanic discharges in recorded history, the ash it produced led to cold summers across Europe, the Mediterranean, the Americas, and parts of Central Asia. This article examines the impacts of the explosions on Ottoman Egypt and uses this climate history of Iceland and Egypt to analyze ways of doing global environmental history. By focusing on the directly linked climate history of Iceland’s environmental and political impacts on Ottoman Egypt, the article attempts to show the utility of analyzing small-scale instances of global climate change. It moreover argues for the importance of the history of Laki for Middle Eastern history and also shows how considering the history of the Middle East adds to our understanding of the global history of Laki.