Charts from this new article.

We are happy to announce the recent publication of an article co-authored by Professor Philippe Forêt of the HPRS department.

Qing Pei, Philippe Forêt et al.,

“Temperature and Precipitation Effects on Agrarian Economy in Late Imperial China”, Environmental Research Letters, 11:6, 2016. (link)


Climate change has been statistically proven to substantially influence the economy of early modern Europe, particularly in the long term. However, a detailed analysis of climate change and the economy of historical China remains lacking, particularly from a large-scale and quantitative perspective. This study quantitatively analyzes the relationship between climate change and the economy in late imperial China (AD 1600–1840) at the national level. This study also compares the findings on the relationship between climate change and the economy in late imperial China with those in early modern Europe. Results of multivariate regression and Granger causality analyses indicate that (1) climate change induces economic fluctuations in late imperial China, particularly in the long term; (2) given that the economic center is located in South China during the study period, temperature has a greater influence on the economy than precipitation; (3) the population of China is statistically proven to primarily act as consumers in the long term; and (4) given the long-term role of the Chinese population, the economic vulnerability in late imperial China under climate change is further increased and is higher than that in early modern Europe, whose population mainly acts as producers in the long term. In conclusion, the late imperial Chinese society has a high economic vulnerability to climate change. These findings revisit Malthusian theory and ‘Great Divergence’ theory by including the perspective of economic vulnerability under climate change during the study period. The role of the population must be investigated further to address the socioeconomic vulnerabilities under climate change.