Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist
Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist is both Associate Professor of History and Associate Professor of Physical Geography, both at Stockholm University, and also Pro Futura Scientia Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala. His current research interests range from the link between past climate variability and historical harvest yields to the effect of plague outbreaks on the history of European building activity, socio-political aspects of historical food (in)security, and the legal content of medieval Scandinavian laws. Ljungqvist spent time between 2017 and 2019 as a Visiting Scholar at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, and has close research collaborations across Europe and in China. He is an experienced university teacher and is also actively engaged in popular science and public outreach activities. He is the author of four popular science books – for the first two of which he was awarded the Clio Prize in 2016 – and frequently gives popular science lectures and makes contributions to media. In 2022 he was by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities awarded the Rettig Prize for “interdisciplinary works concerning climate and diseases in a long-term perspective that demonstrate the importance of humanistic and historical perspectives on crucial contemporary issues”.
Present key academic commitments
Pro Futura Scientia Fellow at the Swedish Collegium for Advanced Study, Uppsala.
Affiliated researcher at the Bolin Centre for Climate Research, Stockholm University.
Previous key academic merits
Secretary for the Centre for Medieval Studies at Stockholm University June 2008–June 2018.
Visiting Researcher at the Department of Geography, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, from October 2017–April 2018 and October 2018–April 2019.
Guest Professorship in Environmental Sciences at Lanzhou University, China, from 2017–2019.
Awarded the Clio Prize 2016.
Awarded the Rettig Prize 2022 by the Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities for “interdisciplinary works concerning climate and diseases in a long-term perspective that demonstrate the importance of humanistic and historical perspectives on crucial contemporary issues”.
PI for the international multi-disciplinary research project: “Disentangling socio-political and climatic factors for food insecurity in early modern northern Europe (c. AD 1500–1800)”
What made societies in northern Europe c. 1500–1800 more or less vulnerable to food insecurity? To what extent can famines be explained by climatic factors and socio-political factors, respectively? How did these factors interact with each other? These questions will be systematically investigated through a holistic and non-deterministic approach to climatic–societal links by using traditional historical data in tandem with new palaeo-proxy based climate reconstructions. The project jointly study the direct and indirect impacts of climate on harvest yields and the socio-political/socio-economic vulnerability to food insecurity. Firstly, the project use new spatially resolved temperature and hydroclimatic tree-ring based reconstructions to study the statistical relationship between historical harvest yields and climate variability. Secondly, the project develop models integrating multi-causal socio-political and socio-economic famine risk factors to explore the size of harvest reduction required to trigger famines in different sub-regions in northern Europe during different sub-periods and to identify the key risk factors for famines. This approach will support the identification and quantification of the relative contribution of socio-political and climatic factors to food (in)security in various parts of early modern northern Europe and at the same time offer insights which are also applicable for mitigation strategies against famine vulnerability in the poorer parts of today’s world.
Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist has been teaching at the undergraduate and master programmes of the Department of History, Stockholm University, since 2007, and since 2010 at the history course for the Elementary School Teacher Education Programme, Stockholm University. Ljungqvist have been supervisor of more than 20 student writing bachelor thesis in history, and has been invited as a guest lecture, for courses on both advanced and doctoral level, both at other universities in Sweden and abroad in palaeoclimatology. He has also held numerous popular science lectures, in both history and palaeoclimatology, at museums, public libraries, local history societies and for non-profit associations. Ljungqvist is at present co-supervisor for three PhD students: one in history, one in agrarian history, and one in earth sciences.
(14 February, 2022, ISI Web of Knowledge [Google Scholar])
ISI Web of Science [Google Scholar])
Publications: 81 
Total citations: 3210 
Average citations: 39.63 [50.32]
H-index: 24 
Highly Cited in Field (ISI): 6
A selection from Stockholm University publication database
Linking European building activity with plague history
2018. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist (et al.). Journal of Archaeological Science 98, 81-92Article
Variations in building activity reflect demographic, economic and social change during history. Tens of thousands of wooden constructions in Europe have been dendrochronologically dated in recent decades. We use the annually precise evidence from a unique dataset of 49 640 tree felling dates of historical constructions to reconstruct temporal changes in building activity between 1250 and 1699 CE across a large part of western and central Europe largely corresponding to the former Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation. Comparison with annual records of 9772 plague outbreaks shows that construction activity was significantly negatively correlated to the number of plague outbreaks, with the greatest decrease in construction following the larger outbreaks by three to four years after the start of the epidemics. Preceding the Black Death (1346-1353 CE) by five decades and the Great Famine (1315-1322 CE) by two decades, a significant decline in construction activity at c. 1300 CE is indicative of a societal crisis, associated with population stagnation or decline. Another dramatic decline in building activity coincides with the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648 CE) and confirms the devastating nature of this conflict. While construction activity was significantly lower during periods of high grain prices, no statistically robust relationship between the number of felling dates and past temperature or hydroclimate variations is found. This study demonstrates the value of dendrochronological felling dates as an indicator for times of crisis and prosperity during periods when documentary evidence is limited.
The spatiotemporal distribution of Late Viking Age Swedish runestones
2018. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, Andrea Seim. Journal of Archaeological Science 21, 849-861Article
The Late Viking Age Swedish runestones are commonly acknowledged as early Christian monuments. Using geostatistical techniques and descriptive statistics, we systematically investigate the regional-to-local spatiotemporal patterns of 1302 ornamentally dated Swedish runestones regarding the timing and speed of the Christianisation process. After quantitative geostatistical analyses of the age distribution patterns of Swedish runestones, we evaluate whether the observed patterns correspond to the pace and pattern of Christianisation, as represented by the presence of mission bishoprics, early church sites, late pagan grave sites and royal estates. We identify seven distinct age groups of runestones and statistically significant regional-to-local spatiotemporal differences in the age and age spread of runestones. The oldest runestones, with the smallest age spread, are found in south-western medieval Sweden, and the youngest, as well as the largest age spread, in the north-east, respectively. We find that runestones are significantly older close to early ecclesiastical sites, regardless of the analytical level, and significantly younger near to late pagan graves. The results obtained are inconclusive as to whether runestones are older near royal estates. Our results support that the spatiotemporal patterns of runestone sites mirror the timing of the Christianisation process and that geostatistical approaches to larger archaeological or historical data sets can add new dimensions to the understanding of the spatial dimensions of past societal changes.
Klimatet och människan under 12 000 år
2017. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist.Book
I boken presenteras för första gången på svenska resultaten från den senaste klimathistoriska forskningen för en bred publik. I en välblandad mix av historia och klimatvetenskap får läsaren följa med på en medryckande resa genom världshistorien då kraftiga och plötsliga klimatförändringar emellanåt dramatiskt förändrat livsvillkoren för miljoner människor.
För 6 000 år sedan var till exempel Sahara en frodig savann i stället för världens största öken, samtidigt som klimatet var varmt nog i Sverige för sköldpaddor och vilda vindruvor. Senare under historien har stora variationer i monsunregnen i Asien gett upphov till antingen välstånd eller hungersnöd för miljontals människor.
För tusen år sedan kollapsade indianska civilisationer av torka, samtidigt som ett varmare klimat tillät nordbor att kolonisera södra Grönland. Den så kallade lilla istiden, som kulminerade på 1600-talet, orsakade försörjningskriser i Europa och Kina och på många andra håll i världen.
Författaren ger oss åtskilliga spännande och lärorika exempel på hur klimatförändringar under historien påverkat utvecklingen i olika delar av världen och hur människor hanterat eller inte hanterat konsekvenserna av klimatförändringar. Det är insikter som är mycket relevanta i vår tid.
Northern Hemisphere hydroclimate variability over the past twelve centuries
2016. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist (et al.). Nature 532 (7597), 94-98Article
Accurate modelling and prediction of the local to continental-scale hydroclimate response to global warming is essential given the strong impact of hydroclimate on ecosystem functioning, crop yields, water resources, and economic security. However, uncertainty in hydroclimate projections remains large, in part due to the short length of instrumental measurements available with which to assess climate models. Here we present a spatial reconstruction of hydroclimate variability over the past twelve centuries across the Northern Hemisphere derived from a network of 196 at least millennium-long proxy records. We use this reconstruction to place recent hydrological changes and future precipitation scenarios in a long-term context of spatially resolved and temporally persistent hydroclimate patterns. We find a larger percentage of land area with relatively wetter conditions in the ninth to eleventh and the twentieth centuries, whereas drier conditions are more widespread between the twelfth and nineteenth centuries. Our reconstruction reveals that prominent seesaw patterns of alternating moisture regimes observed in instrumental data across the Mediterranean, western USA, and China have operated consistently over the past twelve centuries. Using an updated compilation of 128 temperature proxy records, we assess the relationship between the reconstructed centennial-scale Northern Hemisphere hydroclimate and temperature variability. Even though dry and wet conditions occurred over extensive areas under both warm and cold climate regimes, a statistically significant co-variability of hydroclimate and temperature is evident for particular regions. We compare the reconstructed hydroclimate anomalies with coupled atmosphere-ocean general circulation model simulations and find reasonable agreement during pre-industrial times. However, the intensification of the twentieth-century-mean hydroclimate anomalies in the simulations, as compared to previous centuries, is not supported by our new multi-proxy reconstruction. This finding suggests that much work remains before we can model hydroclimate variability accurately, and highlights the importance of using palaeoclimate data to place recent and predicted hydroclimate changes in a millennium-long context.
The significance of climate variability on early modern European grain prices
2022. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist (et al.). Cliometrica 16, 29-77Article
Grain was the most important food source in early modern Europe (c. 1500-1800), and its price influenced the entire economy. The extent to which climate variability determined grain price variations remains contested, and claims of solar cycle influences on prices are disputed. We thoroughly reassess these questions, within a framework of comprehensive statistical analysis, by employing an unprecedentedly large grain price data set together with state-of-the-art palaeoclimate reconstructions and long meteorological series. A highly significant negative grain price-temperature relationship (i.e. colder = high prices and vice versa) is found across Europe. This association increases at larger spatial and temporal scales and reaches a correlation of -0.41 considering the European grain price average and previous year June-August temperatures at annual resolution, and of -0.63 at decadal timescales. This strong relationship is of episodic rather than periodic (cyclic) nature. Only weak and spatially inconsistent signals of hydroclimate (precipitation and drought), and no meaningful association with solar variations, are detected in the grain prices. The significant and persistent temperature effects on grain prices imply that this now rapidly changing climate element has been a more important factor in European economic history, even in southern Europe, than commonly acknowledged.
Climate and society in European history
2021. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist, Andrea Seim, Heli Huhtamaa. Wiley Interdisciplinary Reviews 12 (2)Article
This article evaluates 165 studies from various disciplines, published between 2000 and 2019, which in different ways link past climate variability and change to human history in medieval and early modern Europe (here, c. 700-1815 CE). Within this review, we focus on the identification and interpretation of causal links between changes in climate and in human societies. A revised climate-society impact order model of historical climate-society interactions is presented and applied to structure the findings of the past 20 years' scholarship. Despite considerable progress in research about past climate-society relations, partly expedited by new palaeoclimate data, we identify limitations to knowledge, including geographical biases, a disproportional attention to extremely cold periods, and a focus on crises. Furthermore, recent scholarship shows that the limitations with particular disciplinary approaches can be successfully overcome through interdisciplinary collaborations. We conclude the article by proposing recommendations for future directions of research in the climatic change-human history nexus.
Climate in Nordic historical research - a research review and future perspectives
2021. Heli Huhtamaa, Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist. Scandinavian Journal of HistoryArticle
This article assesses the development and current state of climate history research conducted in the five Nordic countries and Estonia. The possible societal impacts of past climatic changes already interested a handful of Nordic historians in the early twentieth century, but the lack of data on past climate fluctuations constrained scholarship in this field until recently. The data availability has increased fundamentally over the past decades due to the advances of palaeoclimatology. However, these advances have created new challenges, related to the ability to utilize data from the natural sciences in historical research as well as acquiring a basic knowledge on climatology. In many European countries, climate history has established itself as a strong academic subfield and consequently has created approaches as to how to overcome some main pitfalls, like climate determinism, related to the early works in the field. These epistemological advances are just beginning to gain a foothold in Nordic historical research. Thus, the article concludes with ten recommendations to improve future research in Nordic climate history.
Legitimising Royal Power in Medieval Scandinavian Laws
2020. Fredrik Charpentier Ljungqvist. Nordic Elites in Transformation, c. 1050–1250, Volume III, 105-126Chapter
From the late twelfth century onwards, we observe a gradual shift from a horizontal to a vertical relationship between king and commoners in the kingdoms of Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. This gradual transformation contributed to, and partly enabled, the growth of royal power in medieval Scandinavia. As elsewhere in Europe, kingship underwent a fundamental ideological change bringing about new forms of legitimisation of royal power according to which the king functioned as a rex iustus by divine grace. This elevated position placed the king above other members of the secular elite as he was glorified as God’s elected representative on earth. This chapter explores this process by analysing the preserved law material, and placing special emphasis on mutual obligations between king and commoners, considering the extent to which the king was bound by law, individual rights to pursue feuds, royal privileges, and crimes against the Crown. It shows, among other things, how the king was bound by the law in all the three Scandinavian countries up to the thirteenth century when differences started to appear. The kings in Denmark and Sweden were increasingly restricted by specific constitutional provisions, while the kings in Norway became less and less confined by law.
The spatiotemporal distribution of historical malaria cases in Sweden
2021. Tzu Tung Chen (et al.). Malaria Journal 20 (1)Article
Background: Understanding of the impacts of climatic variability on human health remains poor despite a possibly increasing burden of vector-borne diseases under global warming. Numerous socioeconomic variables make such studies challenging during the modern period while studies of climate-disease relationships in historical times are constrained by a lack of long datasets. Previous studies have identified the occurrence of malaria vectors, and their dependence on climate variables, during historical times in northern Europe. Yet, malaria in Sweden in relation to climate variables is understudied and relationships have never been rigorously statistically established. This study seeks to examine the relationship between malaria and climate fluctuations, and to characterise the spatio-temporal variations at parish level during severe malaria years in Sweden 1749-1859.
Methods: Symptom-based annual malaria case/death data were obtained from nationwide parish records and military hospital records in Stockholm. Pearson (r(p)) and Spearman's rank (r(s)) correlation analyses were conducted to evaluate inter-annual relationship between malaria data and long meteorological series. The climate response to larger malaria events was further explored by Superposed Epoch Analysis, and through Geographic Information Systems analysis to map spatial variations of malaria deaths.
Results: The number of malaria deaths showed the most significant positive relationship with warm-season temperature of the preceding year. The strongest correlation was found between malaria deaths and the mean temperature of the preceding June-August (r(s) = 0.57, p < 0.01) during the 1756-1820 period. Only non-linear patterns can be found in response to precipitation variations. Most malaria hot-spots, during severe malaria years, concentrated in areas around big inland lakes and southern-most Sweden.
Conclusions: Unusually warm and/or dry summers appear to have contributed to malaria epidemics due to both indoor winter transmission and the evidenced long incubation and relapse time of P. vivax, but the results also highlight the difficulties in modelling climate-malaria associations. The inter-annual spatial variation of malaria hot-spots further shows that malaria outbreaks were more pronounced in the southern-most region of Sweden in the first half of the nineteenth century compared to the second half of the eighteenth century.