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A thought-provoking new book on Christianity's "lost history" holds that one of the central causes of 14th century religious persecution may well have been climate change. You can read my interview with author Philip Jenkins about "The Lost History of Christianity: The Thousand-Year Golden Age of the Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia -- and How It Died" on the Reuters website here.
"The Chronology of Christian sufferings under Islam closely mirrors that of Jews in Christian states," he writes, noting that "Around 1300, the world was changing, and definitely for the worse."
"If we seek a common factor that might explain this simultaneous scapegoating of vulnerable minorities, by far the best candidate is climate change, which was responsible for many economic changes in these years, and increased poverty and desperation across the globe."
Jenkins notes that after a period of warming that had seen Europe's population double from the 11th to the 13th centuries, the world entered a period of cooling which historians have long dubbed "The Little Ice Age." Cooler, wetter summers hit harvests, leading to famines in Europe. Meanwhile, in the Middle East, there was widespread environmental collapse in the face of desertification.