What was the General Crisis? It was a period of unbelievable global strife, rebellion, death, and revolution that took place over the course of the 17th century. At the time, a succession of dreadful natural, military, and financial disasters inflicted death and destruction on a global scale. As a result of regional warfare, famine, oppressive weather conditions, and financial collapse, the entire globe was restructured in the wake of the Crisis. China, France, England, and the Netherlands all completely restructured their ruling systems, to name just one of its effects.
For the average person, the General Crisis was a horrible time to be alive. If you didn't die of starvation as a result of the Little Ice Age destroying all of your crops, you might've met your maker on one of the many, many active battlefields of the moment.
The following terrible General Crisis facts illustrate the remarkable depths of the worldwide catastrophe that befell mankind during one of the worst centuries in the history of humanity. If you ever wondered when the worst time in human history was to be alive, look no further than the General Crisis.
The Little Ice Age - a period of intense cooling and violent weather change, spanning the 14th through the 19th centuries - had disastrous consequences in China during the General Crisis. Unusual cold and lack of rainfall precipitated an agricultural shortfall and widespread famine. Peasants were hungry and unable to pay taxes, so they revolted against the Ming Dynasty and overthrew their imperial rulers. This allowed Manchurian insurgents to invade the country and establish the Qing Dynasty. It is estimated that 50% of the Chinese population was decimated during the unrest, which occurred during the first half of the 17th century.
The Little Ice Age was a period of cooling that began in the early 14th century and brought global climate change, colder temperatures, and extreme weather events for several centuries to come. By the 17th century, extreme cold and drought impacted cod fishing in the Atlantic, lowered crop production across Europe (inducing famine), and even completely shut down vineyards in England. Glaciers extended to lower altitudes and completely isolated locations like Iceland and Greenland with frozen sea ice. Most European rivers - like London's Thames - and even the Baltic Sea were completely frozen. The coldest period of this centuries-long phenomenon was 1645 through 1715.
Poland and Lithuania had been able to avoid involvement in the Thirty Years War, but, in 1648, Ukrainian and Cossack elements revolted against the various Polish and Lithuanian noblemen who ruled over the ethnically diverse areas. This event precipitated what was known as "The Deluge," which involved Russian elements in conflict with the Poles and Lithuanians and ultimately resulted in a great loss of territory to Russia after the war concluded almost 20 years later. Sweden, also an emerging regional power, saw this conflict as an opportunity to invade Poland itself, precipitating another bloody conflict that would not be resolved until 1660.
One of the many population-crashing incidents that occurred during the era known as the General Crisis was the the Thirty Years War, a conflict that started in 1618 over religious issues concerning the Holy Roman Empire. By its conclusion in 1848, it would involve every major power in Europe, including France, Sweden, Spain, and Austria. Heavy use of mercenary armies in the War, along with their violet and brutal tactics, led to massive population losses in some places. Among German states, for example, there was a 20% population loss with some areas experiencing a decline of 50%. In 1648, the hostilities ended with the Treaty of Westphalia, but not before populations and industries had been totally wiped out.