2020, I say with sufficient certainty, was nothing but the worst year in the lives of many people around the world.
A violent pandemic, dangerous political instability, meteorological catastrophes and a profound change in lifestyle that a part of us has never experienced or imagined.
But was it the worst year ever?
No. You didn't even get close. After careful analysis, the historian and archaeologist Michael McCormick says that "worst year to live" ever was 536 AD. C.
Why was 536 the worst year in known human history?
One would certainly think that the 1918, the last year of World War I when the Spanish flu killed up to 100 million people worldwide, was a terrible year by all accounts. Even the 1349 could be put in this hit parade: it is the one in which the Black Death wiped out half of Europe, with an estimated 20 million deaths.
Most of the WWII years could probably claim the "worst year" title too, but the 536, friends, the 536 is a champion.
For starters, a nice eruption
Second McCormick, a professor of medieval history at Harvard University, 536 was the worst year, and the precursor to one of the worst periods in human history. It was characterized by a volcanic eruption that occurred earlier this year in Iceland, as established by a study on a Swiss glacier conducted by McCormick himself and the glaciologist. Paul mayewski of the Climate Change Institute of The University of Maine (UM) in Orono.
The ash spewed from the volcano was probably the origin of the climatic anomalies that led to a fog capable of obscuring daylight for 18 months throughout Europe, the Middle East and parts of Asia.
The Byzantine historian Procopius wrote that "the sun emitted its light without splendor, like the moon, throughout the year". He also said that it seemed that the sun was always in eclipse.
Cassiodorus, a Roman politician of that time, wrote that the sun had a "bluish" color, the moon had no luster and "the seasons seem to be all mixed up together". What is even more disturbing, he described: "We wonder not to see the shadows of our bodies at noon."
(Among the "minor" events of this year, in order not to miss anything there is also a Tsunami… in Lake Geneva! In this regard there is a small reconstruction with beautiful illustrations by Cecilia Bozzoli)
It continues with a famine ...
The dark days in the worst year also brought a period of cold, with summer temperatures marking temperatures below a range of 1,5 ° C to 2,5 ° C. This started the coldest decade of the last 2300 years, he reports. Science, leading to crop devastation and hunger around the world.
… And the fall of an empire
In 541, the bubonic plague greatly increased the misery of the world. Spread from the Roman port of Pelusium in Egypt, the so-called plague of Justinian it caused the death of almost half of the population of the Eastern Roman Empire. Which, in turn, accelerated his collapse, McCormick writes.
In summary: from 536 between environmental cataclysms, massive volcanic eruptions (also in 540 and 547) and the devastation caused by the plague, Europe ended up in an economic recession for almost the entire following century. Until 640, when the extraction of silver gave it some oxygen.
Worst year and worst time in history?
Of course, the worst year and worst time in history can depend on who you were and where you lived.
For Native Americans, the worst year could be 1520 when smallpox, brought by the Spaniards, killed millions of natives. In 1600, up to 90% of the population of the Americas (about 55 million people) was wiped out by various European pathogens.
Like all things, the grisly title of "worst year ever" boils down to the historical perspective.