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Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2020-33
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2020-33
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  16 Apr 2020

16 Apr 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Human response to severe drought in Early Modern Catalonia. The case of Barcelona, Western Mediterranean (1620–1650)

Santiago Gorostiza1,2, Maria Antònia Martí Escayol3, and Mariano Barriendos4 Santiago Gorostiza et al.
  • 1Centre d’Histoire de Sciences Po, Paris, 75006, France
  • 2Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals, ICTA-UAB, Barcelona, 08193, Spain
  • 3Department of Modern and Contemporary History, Autonomous University of Barcelona, 08193, Spain
  • 4Department of History and Archaeology, University of Barcelona, 08001, Spain

Abstract. Combining historical climatology and environmental history, this article examines the diverse range of strategies deployed by the city government of Barcelona to confront the recurrent drought episodes experienced between 1626 and 1650. First, our reconstruction of drought episodes for the period 1525–1821, based on pro pluvia rogations as documentary proxy data, identifies the years 1625–1635 and 1640–1650 as the most significative drought events of the period 1521–1825 (highest Drought Frequency Weighted Index of the series). Throughout the article, we focus on human responses to drought and discuss how water scarcity was perceived and confronted by Barcelona city authorities. We present the ambitious water supply projects launched by the city government, together with the construction of windmills as an alternative to watermills in order to mill grain, as attempts to cope with diminishing water flows. The context was aggravated by political instability, related first to the tensions between the centralising efforts of the Spanish King Philip IV and later to the impact of the Thirty Years’ War in the border region between the French and Spanish Crowns (1635–1659). Finally, we interpret the efforts of the city government to codify and appropriate knowledge about urban water supply as an attempt to systematise historical information on infrastructure to improve institutional capacities to cope with water scarcity in the future. These efforts materialised in the elaboration of the Llibre de les Fonts de la Ciutat de Barcelona (“Book of Fountains of the City of Barcelona”), a manual compiling the knowledge of Barcelona’s water supply from source to tap, written by the Barcelona water city officer in 1650, after three decades of experience in his post.

Santiago Gorostiza et al.

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Santiago Gorostiza et al.

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Short summary
This paper studies human response to drought in cities during the 17th century. It examines how the city government of Barcelona (Catalonia) responded to what we identify as the most significant drought events that occurred in the city during the years 1521–1825. Beyond the efforts to expand urban water supply sources and developing a network of windmills, we discuss how the city government compiled knowledge about water into a single book, conceived to be used by future water managers.
This paper studies human response to drought in cities during the 17th century. It examines how...
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