Disaster at a distance: demographic consequences of the Tambora 1815 eruption on Italian towns in the Appenines

Katherine M. Condon, Independent Researcher

In April 1815, one of the largest known volcanic eruptions occurred at Tambora in Indonesia. The initial eruption killed about 10,000 people instantly and the overall local death toll was estimated at 88,000. Volcanic dust impacted areas beyond the South Pacific; blanketing much of Europe and North America during the summer of 1816 and has been blamed for the below-normal daily temperatures experienced at that time. Lower temperatures came at a critical time for agricultural production, causing many crops to fail, and leading to widespread famine and increased mortality in 1817 in Europe. I document significant mortality consequences of the eruption by examining death data for 32 towns in the Abruzzi region of Italy. Deaths in 1817 were significantly greater compared to adjacent years. Further, I find that the mortality crisis peaked between March 1817 and March 1818, and most age groups were impacted.

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Presented in Session 32: Demographic stress in the past