Inside 'The General Crisis,' Statistically The Worst Time In History To Be Alive

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.

Photo: PetriKohn/CC / wikimedia commons

  • China Experienced Famine, A Revolution, And A 50% Population Decline

    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 lost during the unrest, which occurred during the first half of the 17th century.    

  • There Was Literally An Ice Age

    There Was Literally An Ice Age
    Photo: Hendrick Avercamp / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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.

  • There Was A "Deluge" In Which Every Country And Its Brother Invaded Poland

    There Was A "Deluge" In Which Every Country And Its Brother Invaded Poland
    Photo: Franciszek Kondratowicz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY 3.0

    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. 

  • The Thirty Years' War Wiped Out 20% Of Germany

    The Thirty Years' War Wiped Out 20% Of Germany
    Photo: Abraham Hogenberg / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    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 1648, 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.

  • The "Time Of Troubles" In Russia Resulted In The Deaths Of Millions

    The "Time Of Troubles" In Russia Resulted In The Deaths Of Millions
    Photo: Internet Archive Book Images / flickr / No known copyright restrictions

    At the start of the 17th century, Russia was greatly affected by the chaos, warfare, and famine happening in and around it. Affected by the agricultural issues associated with the Little Ice Age, famine killed over two million Russians - a third of the nation - between 1601 and 1603. The end of the Rurik Dynasty also fomented political conflict that left the government in chaos, providing an opportunity for an invasion of Russia by Polish-Lithuanian forces who wreaked tremendous destruction until a Russian revolt expelled the invaders. The end of this "Time of Troubles" is traditionally ascribed to the coronation of Michael Romanov as Tsar in 1613. 

  • The Thirty Years' War Caused Food Costs To Increase By 800%

    The Thirty Years' War Caused Food Costs To Increase By 800%
    Photo: Ernest Crofts / Wikimedia Commons / Public Domain

    Because of the imminent military conflict of the Thirty Years War, European states, especially in the German region, began to devalue their coins and currency in an attempt to obtain wealth by exchanging this debased money for more valuable coins from other states. Coins previously consisting of gold or silver were now made of copper or even less-valuable metal with no intrinsic value. Economies suffered, trade dried up, and hyperinflation swept through Europe, especially Germany where food costs increased by 800% from 1620 to 1623.