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The Year Without: Food Scarcity in Canada in 1817

Sat, April 2, 3:00 to 4:30pm, Westin Seattle Hotel, Cascade 1C


Eastern North America experienced intense bouts of cold weather on the heels of the 1815 Tambora eruption, and in time 1816 came to be known as the Year Without a Summer. But because eastern Canada did not receive the worst of this cold – and perhaps because we expect Canada to be cold – the year has never been thought to be particularly momentous there, its nickname an exaggeration. A return to the newspapers, diaries, and government records of that time shows that there most certainly was a summer that year, but it also shows that British North Americans were affected greatly by the wild weather. What’s more, it shows that the focus on the conditions of 1816 has obscured the years surrounding it. Parts of Canada had already suffered several bad harvests in a row, so 1816’s weather threatened the colonies with extreme food shortages, making 1817 for many a year of deprivation, a year without.