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Is 2016 the Worst Year in History?

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Slate asked historians to list some of the "worst" years in history. 2016 hardly comes close.  David Baker, author of Crash Course Big History, suggested circa 72,000 years ago (Toba super eruption). Peter Frankopan, author of The Silk Roads: A New History of the World, suggested 1348 (year of the Black Death). Peter Shulman, author of Coal and Empire: The Birth of Energy Security in Industrial America, suggested 1492 (for the epidemics of disease Columbus brought to the New World). Claudio Saunt, the author of West of the Revolution: An Uncommon History of 1776, suggested 1836 (peak of the interstate slave trade). Joshua Rothman, the author of Flush Times and Fever Dreams: A Story of Capitalism and Slavery in the Age of Jackson, suggested 1837 (year of the Panic). Manisha Sinha, the author of The Slave’s Cause: A History of Abolition, suggested 1877 (the end of Reconstruction). Kevin Kruse, the author of One Nation Under God: How Corporate America Invented Christian America, suggested 1919 (year of race riots). Matt Delmont, the author of Why Busing Failed: Race, Media, and the National Resistance to School Desegregation, suggested 1943 (Holocaust and race riots). Susan Strasser, the author of Satisfaction Guaranteed: The Making of the American Mass Market, suggested 1968 (assassinations of MLK and RFK). Matthew Pratt Guterl, the author of Seeing Race in Modern America, suggested 2003 (Iraq War).

David Baker, author of Crash Course Big History, suggested circa 72,000 years ago:

There are plenty of “bad years” in the history of the universe, but the worst year in human history would probably be the year humans came closest to extinction (thus far). One year, around 72,000 B.C., there was a volcanic super-eruption on the island of Sumatra in present-day Indonesia. The explosion was massive. Where there was once a mountain, there is now a lake. It exploded with the force of 1.5 million Hiroshima-size bombs. Rock and magma were hurled continental distances. A layer of volcanic ash approximately 15 centimeters (about six inches) thick settled over Asia with traces as far as our homeland in East Africa. The skies darkened and global temperatures fell.

The “long night” descended, and something analogous to a nuclear winter began that year and lasted for many years afterward. Food sources died off, and DNA testing indicates that the human population was reduced to between 3,000 and 10,000 people. From this tiny group of survivors, no bigger than a small town, all 7 billion people on Earth today are descended, making us one of the most numerous but genetically close species in nature.

Read entire article at Slate


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