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Public defence: People and Climate Change in Chinese History

Master Erling Hagen Agøy at the Department of Culture Studies and Oriental Languages will defend his dissertation Historical Climate Change in the Jiāngnán Region in the Late Míng and Early Qīng periods (1600-1700): Perceptions, Effects and Adaptation for the degree of philosophiae doctor (PhD).

Bildet kan inneholde: panne, briller, dagtid, visjon omsorg, skjegg.

Climate changes have had a tremendous impact on history, not least in China. Much of the world went through a period of cold and unstable climate in the 17th century, a part of the so-called “Little Ice Age,” which coincided with a current of social uprisings and warfare in many countries. Both deteriorating climate and unrest had an impact on Jiangnan in East China, which was then the country’s cultural and economic centre.

Agøy has studied 17th century climate change in Jiangnan through the use of gazetteers, court documents, histories, agricultural books and diaries. How did people conceptualise the ongoing climate changes? How did the climate impact historical trends, including the Míng (1368-1644)-Qīng (1644-1912) transition, population and economic trends and livelihoods? And what was done to handle the climatic challenges?

The dissertation makes it clear that the way people experienced climate change through a series of calamities influenced the way they thought about them. Their lives were influenced by the climate in both dramatic and more intimate ways, while both the national government, local administrators and elites and the common people had to find ways to handle the climatic challenges.


Erling Hagen Agøy successfully defended his dissertation on February 26, 2021.

Trial lecture

Prescribed topic: Climatic aspects in the environmental history of the Yellow River region

Published February 24.

Evaluation committee

Professor Nicola Di Cosmo, Institute for Advanced Study (IAS) (first opponent)

Associate Professor Jonathan Schlesinger, Indiana University (second opponent)

Professor Mette Halskov Hansen, University of Oslo (administrator)

Chair of the defence

Associate Professor Ane Ohrvik


Rune Svarverud, University of Oslo

Timothy Brook, University of British Columbia




Published Feb. 15, 2021 11:24 AM - Last modified Mar. 2, 2021 7:41 AM