The Little Ice Age, by anthropology professor Brian Fagan of the University of California at Santa Barbara, tells of the plight of European peasants during the 1300 to 1850 chill: famines, hypothermia, bread riots and the rise of despotic leaders brutalizing an increasingly dispirited peasantry.
In the late 17th century, agriculture had dropped off dramatically: "Alpine villagers lived on bread made from ground nutshells mixed with barley and oat flour." Burroughs asserts that it occurred almost entirely from 1565 to 1665 and was associated with the climatic decline from 1550 onwards.
Several causes have been proposed: cyclical lows in solar radiation, heightened volcanic activity, changes in the ocean circulation, variations in Earth's orbit and axial tilt (orbital forcing), inherent variability in global climate, and decreases in the human population.
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According to the science historian James Burke, the period inspired such novelties in everyday life as the widespread use of buttons and button-holes, knitting of custom-made undergarments to better cover and insulate the body.
Fireplace hoods were installed to make more efficient use of fires for indoor heating, and enclosed stoves were developed, with early versions often covered with ceramic tiles.
The winter of 1794–1795 was particularly harsh: the French invasion army under Pichegru was able to march on the frozen rivers of the Netherlands, and the Dutch fleet was fixed in the ice in Den Helder harbour.
Sea ice surrounding Iceland extended for miles in every direction, closing harbors to shipping.
In the 13th century, pack ice began advancing southwards in the North Atlantic, as did glaciers in Greenland.