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Active Volcanoes, Active Imaginations: Fire-Spitting Mountains and Subterraneous Roars in the German Territories in the Summer of 1783

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In the summer of 1783, a sulphuric, dry fog that lasted for several weeks covered much of Europe. As a result, the sun, moon and other celestial objects appeared 'blood-red'. Speculation in Europe was rife as to the cause of this unusual weather. In Iceland, the Laki fissure had erupted; from June 1783 to February 1784, it released the greatest volume of lava of any eruption on planet Earth in the last millennium. The ejected gases travelled to Europe and beyond via the jet stream. Unaware of the Icelandic eruption, some contemporaries from the German Territories hypothesised that the dry fog emanated from a local source, namely one or more supposed German volcanoes. This paper traces the reports of these 'eruptions' from the perspective of environmental history and presents translations of pertinent newspaper articles that have, for the most part, remained unstudied, in order to evaluate the possible reasons for the emergence of this idea.

Keywords: fog; media history; newspaper; volcanic eruption; weather

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: October 1, 2022

More about this publication?
  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
    Global Environment has a Journal Impact Factor (2022) of 0.4. 5 Year Impact Factor: 0.6.
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