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How Weather Changed History

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The Salem Witch Trials and Witchcraft Altered by Cold Weather
Quick…prove that you are not controlling the weather. Can you do it? Just such a question was put to countless people, mostly women, in the 15th through 17th centuries. The wrong answer was enough to cost them their lives. The only catch-- there was no right answer. During the period of severe weather known as The Little Ice Age, witch trials became epidemic in parts of central and southern Europe, with changing the weather as a common charge.

Torture seems to have touched villages whenever cold did. Historian Wolfgang Behringer studied the European witch trials and found a correlation between the peaks of witch prosecutions and accumulative sequences of coldness in the years 1560-1574, 1583-1589, 1623-1630 and 1678-1698. From 1730 on the climate became more stable, and so did the general mood. Isolated witch-trials continued in Central Europe until the 1770s, but nothing on as grand a scale as the hey-day of the Little Ice Age.

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