Best Article Prize 2015

The ESEH Prize for Best Article in European Environmental History published in 2013 or 2014 was awarded to “‘Never Such Weather Known in These Seas’: Climatic Fluctuations and the Anglo-Dutch Wars of the Seventeenth Century, 1652–1674,” by Dagomar Degroot, assistant professor in the Department of History at Georgetown University. The article appeared in the journal Environment and History in the spring of 2014.

“‘Never Such Weather Known in These Seas’” is an empirically rich, theoretically sophisticated account of an important episode in early modern European history. Drawing on extensive research in seventeenth-century Dutch and English sources and skillfully avoiding the pitfalls of both climate determinism and technological determinism, the article describes how the effects of a particularly frigid period of the Little Ice Age were mediated over the course of three wars by choices of ship design and naval tactics and by short-term fluctuations in weather conditions.
In particular, the article shows that as temperatures cooled and the prevailing direction of winds on the North Sea shifted from west to east, so did the naval advantage shift from the English to the Dutch. But this advantage was not absolute: it depended on particular technologies and tactics, could disappear or even reverse itself at crucial moments, and was sometimes squandered by indecisive or incompetent admirals. Transnational in scope, sensitive to multiple time-scales, and relevant to present-day discussions of climate change and national security, the article is a model for how to integrate climate into history.

The prize committee consisted of Etienne Benson (chair), Stéphane Frioux, and Petra van Dam.