University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure - seminar series > The volcano Laki in 1783: a serial killer? A French-English comparison

The volcano Laki in 1783: a serial killer? A French-English comparison

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Sandwiches and fruit will be available from 12.30

Abruptly, in April 2010, airlines companies, insurers and politicians discovered that volcanic ash from Iceland could disrupt air traffic throughout western Europe. Like other recent natural disaster (Atlantic storm Xynthia in 2010, the tsunami in Japon in 2011), this was a totally ‘new’ and completely unexpected scenario. However, British and French archives showed that this event was perfectly conceivable. Indeed, on 8 June 1783, the Icelandic volcano Laki entered an eruptive phase lasting nearly a year, producing massive amounts of smoke which, within hours, was observed everywhere in Northern Europe. These ‘sulfurous fogs’, in addition to terrorizing the population, were quickly suspected of being harmful to health. Based on a comparative approach of classic historical sources as parish registers (Cambridge, Cambridgeshire, Normandy, the North of France), medical archives of the Société royale de médecine, the Académie royale des Sciences of Paris and the Royal Society of London as well as English and French meteorological Journals, this work uses an interdisciplinary approach to provide a new perspective on the precise chronology of this health disaster and its climatic and social contexte on a transnational scale.

This talk is part of the The Cambridge Group for the History of Population and Social Structure - seminar series series.

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