Tuesday 12 June 2018

Book Review: A Cold Welcome

A Cold Welcome: The Little Ice Age and Europe’s Encounter with North America
Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2017
Author: Sam White, Associate Professor, Department of History, Ohio State University
LCCN 2017016539 / ISBN 9780674971929
376 pages

This new book by Sam White, details the period of the 16th and early 17th centuries during the time the Americas were being explored and colonized. Mr. White deals with the contemporary perceptions and science about climate change over the past several centuries, climate reconstruction and the effects of the Little Ice Age in North America, climate and weather-related challenges of the new colonies and how climate affected the interaction with aboriginal societies.

The events and settlements described, with accompanying maps include:
·         Early Spanish explorations around the southeastern coast of North America (Florida & South Carolina)
·         The Roanoke colony and surrounding region (North Carolina)
·         The Frobisher, Davis, Waymouth and Knight expeditions (Labrador Sea)
·         The Jamestown colony and surrounding region (Virginia)
·         The Gosnold and Waymouth expeditions (Massachusetts, New Hampshire & Maine)
·         The Popham (Sagadahoc) colony (Maine)
·         The voyages of Henry Hudson (North Atlantic Ocean, Barents Sea, Labrador Sea, Hudson Bay, Nova Scotia & New England to New York coastlines)
·         Routes of the Coronado and Onate expeditions (Mexico and the western states of Texas, Kansas, Arizona & New Mexico)
·         Early Spanish exploration of the California coast (Mexico & California)
·         The Cartier expeditions (Newfoundland, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick & Quebec)
·         Champlain in Canada and New England (Quebec, Nova Scotia, New York & New England coastline)

Information was gleaned from archaeological, historical and scientific studies, and every obtainable written record in the archives of the nations who sponsored the expeditions.

White explains how the Europeans were unprepared for the lands they tried to settle in, the inhabitants already there and the difficulties in obtaining food to sustain themselves. He compares the various colonies and exploratory ventures in many part of the continent, drawing parallels in their common failures, largely due to the climate prevailing at the time.

New visitors to the New World encountered very different physical conditions and climates than they were used to at the same latitudes, partly due to the relative position to the oceans and the size and variability of the North American continent. The period of the Little Ice Age was one of harsh environmental conditions worldwide, or at least in the world these people knew. Life was no less challenging in North America, in many instances more-so.

The book will be on interest to family historians who are looking for answers to why their forebears left Europe for the colonies of the promised lands of the New World and what conditions they found that affected their new lives.

There is also a presentation by the author on YouTube.