Climatic Changes in the European Alps between 1650 and 1700
Rosina T. Schmidt
After the 30-year War in Europe large parts of the South-Western Germanic areas were devastated and devoid of population, as I have mentioned in my article: “Why emigrate? For instance in the Palatine itself, only about 15% of the original population survived, as per the research of Heinz R. Wittner .
There were two large immigrations into those devastated areas from the Swiss and Austrian Alps, as well as from the Tirol Alps that is now part of Italy. The first was right after the end of the 30-year war in 1648 and the second major wave in 1697, after the Peace of Ryswyk in that year.
Alas, more reasons were to come, like the “Revocation of the Edict of Nantes by Louis XIV of France in 1685 that ordered the conversion of all Protestants to Roman Catholicism led to the flight of hundreds of thousands of Hugenots (Protestants) across the Rhine into Holland, England and the German territories, where a notable number received asylum in Hesse.” As well as the Waldensians, who “were settled in the territories of Count Ludwig Ernest of Hesse, who allowed them to form colonies of their own and allowed the use of their language in church and school. The land they were given, was often not of the best, nor was there much additional land available to them as the colony grew. One of these colonies was at Rüsselsheim, Hesse. “
But the foremost major reason was the climatic change in all of the Alpine regions of Europe, in Switzerland, Austria and the Tirol Alps of Italy. Between the 13th to 14th centuries all the way up to the second half of the 19th century stretched the “little ice age” with the glaciers all over the world rising and expanding to never before documented heights due to the falling temperatures.
As the glaciers expanded, the arable land, as well as the alpine meadows, the grazing areas for the stock, became smaller or non-existent. The winters became longer, the summer shorter. The food growing seasons became too short, ensuring no harvest.
The folk lived mainly from grain harvest. The potatoes were introduced only much later, around 1772. Those were large hunger years. The largest emigration wave started from 1650 on until 1700, peaking around 1685.
After 1700 the climatic conditions changed for the better, but do the population explosion following the ‘hunger years’ of the Alpine regions, the second large emigration wave from that Alpine area followed around 1715/1720.
Where did those Alpine emigrates establish new homes? The Tirol emigrants, being Roman Catholics, headed to Saarland and Palatinate areas, while the Protestants of Switzerland choose their new homeland the Lutheran Hesse, with majority of them settling down what is now the Rüsselsheim area of Hesse.
Wittner: Schweizer in der Vorder- und Suedpfalz, Ludwingshaven 2003
Henry A. Fischer: https://hrastovac.net/historical/Waldensian-Connection.htm