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CCNet ESSAY: THE CATASTROPHIC YEARS AROUND 850 AD
http://abob.libs.uga.edu/bobk/ccc/ce120500.html

By James T Palmer and Trevor Palmer <trevor.palmer@ntu.ac.uk>

Summary

Records from northern Europe between 830 and 875 AD describe a period of
political and environmental turmoil, accompanied by frequent sightings of
comets and other celestial phenomena. Although the evidence is insufficient
for definite conclusions to be drawn, it could, with good reason, be taken
to indicate that an encounter between the Earth and debris from a
disintegrating giant comet occurred at this time.

Introduction

The central decades of the ninth century AD were turbulent ones in northern
Europe, with civil wars taking place between the sons of Louis the Pious,
who had succeeded his father, Charlemagne, as emperor of the Franks. These
disputes eventually led to the break-up of the Frankish empire. At the same
time, Vikings were invading coastal regions and raiding inland down the
rivers.

Chronicles of the period inevitably presented a political bias to the events
taking place. So, whilst all Frankish sources, written by Christians,
condemned the activities of the heathen Vikings, their individual sympathies
were with different grandsons of Charlemagne, and their interpretations of
history differed accordingly. Thus, the Annals of St Bertin [1] from western
Frankia (essentially the region of Gaul, or modern France) presented an
account generally favourable to Charles the Bald, as did the Histories
written by Nithard [2], who was himself a grandson of Charlemagne through
his mother, Bertha. In contrast, the Annals of Fulda [3], from eastern
Frankia (mainly modern Germany) supported first Lothar and, later, Louis,
whereas the Annals of Xanten [4], written close to the present-day border
between Holland and Germany, remained loyal to Lothar.

Nevertheless, despite these differences, all told a consistent story of
environmental hardships, possibly associated with cosmic events. These could
have played a significant role in the events taking place, for desperate
circumstances can drive people to desperate acts.

[continued]



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