Saturday, February 13, 2021

Britain's worst economic crash for 300 years - wait, what?

I've read a few times recently that, in 2020, Britain suffered its worst economic crash for three hundred years. Now, everybody knows what happened in 2020 - it has affected the rest of the world too - but what the hell happened in 1709 that was so bad?

Well, apparently it was The Great Frost, which mainly affected Britain and France, but presumably also various other countries nearby. All of Europe at that time was in the grip of the Little Ice Age - you've probably seen pictures of people skating on the River Thames - and the winter of 1709 was the single worst year, the coldest European winter in the last 500 years, to the extent that crops failed to an unprecedented degree.

It's difficult to believe that a bit of bad weather was enough to set the country back more than the Great Depression of the '30s (although Britain was much less affected than the US), the 2008 recession, more than even than the COVID-19 lockdown. But bear in mind that, in 1709, Britain (and the rest of the world, for that matter) was a pre-industrial, pre-globalization, agrarian economy, so any hit to crop harvests was all but catastrophic.

No comments: