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Prudent Peasantries: Multilevel Adaptation to Drought in Early Modern Spain (1600–1715)

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Climate change, being a product of industrialisation, can easily fuel the idea that adaptation to climate impacts is something new. Scholars of the past, however, show that societies have dynamically and heterogeneously coped with climate variability and with recurrent and abrupt weather extremes. This research aims to explore climate adaptation in preindustrial societies taking into account different levels of social organisation. We argue that this multilevel perspective can enrich our understanding of the different strategies to cope with climate impacts in past societies. Archival research was carried out in the early modern villages of Terrassa and Sant Pere (Barcelona, Spain) to reconstruct the set of strategies to cope with recurrent droughts both at community and household levels. We found that peasant families developed a wider range of strategies than communities, but that many strategies used by households and communities overlapped, potentially generating a redundancy effect and fostering complex strategies operating through cross-level interactions. By studying past adaptation strategies with common taxonomies and detailed methodologies, our paper aims to improve interdisciplinary communication with research about the human dimensions of anthropogenic climate change.
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Keywords: adaptation; climate change; drought; multilevel analysis; preindustrial

Appeared or available online: April 10, 2019

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