Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World by Gillen D’Arcy Wood - review by Alexandra Harris

Alexandra Harris

It Was a Dark and Stormy Night…

Tambora: The Eruption that Changed the World


Princeton University Press 293pp £19.95

Jane Austen looked out dismally at the puddled fields and drowned crops around Chawton. Coleridge sat awake through nights of violent summer storms, marvelling at ‘this end of the world weather’. Most famously, the Shelleys watched the storms over Lake Geneva and started to tell each other ghost stories, one of which took on a life of its own as Frankenstein. Byron, who was with them, wrote a poem called ‘Darkness’ in which the ‘icy earth/Swung blind and blackening’. 

They didn’t know it, but the cause of the strange weather was on the other side of the globe. Mount Tambora in the East Indies erupted on a massive scale in 1815, sending a huge ash cloud into the upper atmosphere. It was enough to disrupt weather patterns across the

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