From Shakespeare to Defoe: malaria in England in the Little Ice Age

Emerg Infect Dis. Jan-Feb 2000;6(1):1-11. doi: 10.3201/eid0601.000101.

Abstract

Present global temperatures are in a warming phase that began 200 to 300 years ago. Some climate models suggest that human activities may have exacerbated this phase by raising the atmospheric concentration of carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gases. Discussions of the potential effects of the weather include predictions that malaria will emerge from the tropics and become established in Europe and North America. The complex ecology and transmission dynamics of the disease, as well as accounts of its early history, refute such predictions. Until the second half of the 20th century, malaria was endemic and widespread in many temperate regions, with major epidemics as far north as the Arctic Circle. From 1564 to the 1730s the coldest period of the Little Ice Age malaria was an important cause of illness and death in several parts of England. Transmission began to decline only in the 19th century, when the present warming trend was well under way. The history of the disease in England underscores the role of factors other than temperature in malaria transmission.

Publication types

  • Historical Article

MeSH terms

  • England / epidemiology
  • History, 16th Century
  • History, 17th Century
  • History, 18th Century
  • Humans
  • Malaria / epidemiology
  • Malaria / history*
  • Malaria / therapy