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Long-term community responses to droughts in the early modern period: the case study of Terrassa, Spain

Mar Grau-Satorras, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, Spain; Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), Humboldt-Universitšt zu Berlin, Germany
Iago Otero, Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems (IRI THESys), Humboldt-Universitšt zu Berlin, Germany
Erik Gůmez-Baggethun, Department of International Environment and Development Studies (Noragric), Norwegian University of Life Sciences, Norway; Norwegian Institute for Nature Research (NINA), Norway
Victoria Reyes-GarcŪa, Institut de CiŤncia i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA), Universitat AutÚnoma de Barcelona, Spain; Instituciů Catalana de Recerca i Estudis AvanÁats (ICREA), Spain

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08232-210233

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Abstract

New challenges posed by global environmental change have motivated scholars to pay growing attention to historical long-term strategies to deal with climate extremes. We aim to understand long-term trends in community responses to cope with droughts, to explain how many preindustrial societies coevolved with local hydro-climatic dynamics and coped with climate extremes over time. The specific goals of this work are: (1) to analyze how local communities experienced droughts over long periods of time and (2) to document the spectrum of recorded community responses to drought. Our research covers over one century (1605-1710) of responses to drought in the community of Terrassa, Barcelona, Spain. Data were collected through archival research. We reviewed and coded 2076 village council minutes. Our results show that the local community adopted a mixture of symbolic, institutional, and infrastructural responses to drought and that drought-related decisions varied through time. We discuss adaptation strategies on the basis of the distinct physical signals of drought propagation and the role of nonclimatic historical factors, such as warfare and public debt, in shaping responses. We conclude that long-term perspectives on premodern history and comparable empirical studies are fundamental to advance our understanding of past social responses to hydro-climatic extremes.

Key words

adaptation; drought; early modern period; environmental history

Copyright © 2016 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article †is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. †You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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