European Business History Association
21st annual congress in Vienna
Institute for Economic and Social History
Philipp Blom (*1970) is a German-born historian, philosopher, translator, and radio journalist. A graduate from Oxford and Vienna universities, his successful books deal with topics as diverse as early French Enlightenment philosophy, the transformation of European politics, society and art prior to World War I, and the Little Ice Age of the 17th century (to name but a few). For a daily talk show broadcast by the Austrian radio station Ö1 Blom performs as an interviewer and host. Recently he made an appearance on the stage of Vienna's progressive Schauspielhaus theatre. On seven consecutive occasions the theatre's public was encouraged to discuss recent developments of democracy and the civil society with artists, intellectuals, and representatives of the press.
The organisers of Vienna's 2017 EBHA congress are honoured to announce that Philipp Blom will be the opening speaker of our event. The title he chose for his keynote address on August 24, 2017, 6m, at the festival hall of the Wirtschaftsuniversität will be
"Freezing Meteors and Congealed Cold: How the Little Ice Age Ushered in Capitalism."
Climate change is a major, if not generally recognized, driver of transformation of man's natural and social habitat - which also includes economic activities on the state, business, and individual levels. In the course of the 17th century, Europeans and Americans experienced a series of exceptionally long and cold winters, with average temperatures that were around 5 degrees Celsius lower than before 1600 or after 1700. In his most recent book Blom delivers a fascinating account of the consequences the "Little Ice Age" had on the lives of contemporaries. As the author points out there was a surge of religiosity in response to weather related hardships, but also a tendency to identify witchcraft as the source of extreme colds (and to punish men and women suspected of sorcery). Most important of all, climate change weakened the productive capacity of predominantly feudal-agrarian societies, and led people to explore alternative means of survival such as those offered by "capitalist" industry, trade, and colonial expansion. As happened after 1600 AD, a renewed major change in the global climate may compel our present societies to quick and fundamental adaptation. No historian can be expected to forecast the future, but with the help of Philipp Blom's story we should be in a position to avoid the worst blunder possible in the face of secular transformation: ignorance towards the past.
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