2018 kind of sucks, by any scale of reckoning. It might be the worst year some people have lived through, though older folks might point back to the years of WWII as one of humanity’s darkest point. However to find the truly worst year in recorded human history, you have to go back even further than that. Here’s when scientists and historians have pinned it as.
To find the worst year for mankind, scientists have to think globally. While events like the Black Death in medieval Europe, or the Holocaust in modern Europe, or the 17th century famine that caused China’s Ming Dynasty to collapse were devastating for a section of the world, we’re looking for something that caused suffering around the entire world. And here it is.
You might not be surprised to find out that the supposed worst year in human history was smack-bang in the middle of the Dark Ages, with the era already having a pretty bad reputation. The exact point of the ‘worst year’ was 536AD, being not only a pretty shit year in itself but also the start of an incredibly difficult period of time to be alive.
See, in 536AD, most of the Earth was covered in a thick dust cloud that blocked out the sun for 18 months, causing a global climate crisis and crop failures across the world.
“For the sun gave forth its light without brightness, like the moon, during the whole year,” a Byzantine historian named Procopius wrote of the year, as quoted in Science Mag’s story on the event.
Conditions arising from the event eventually led to the collapse of the eastern Roman Empire, and it wasn’t till at least a century later, in 640, when humanity started to recover from this blow.
While the dust cloud blocking out the sun in 536 has long been known by historians, it’s only recently that we’ve discovered the probably source of them: a giant volcanic eruption originating in Iceland, which was followed by similarly huge eruptions in both 540 and 547.
So next time you start to complain about 2018 and our horrifying internet-led dystopia, just think about the poor people off 536AD, okay?
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