Annus Horribilis

It’s increasingly easy to look at our modern era and despair for the future. However, this is precisely what every generation has done over the course of history. Geoffrey Pearson’s excellent book: Hooligan: A History of Respectable Fears, charts moral panics back to the pre-industrial age, showing that even in the eighteenth century, the older generation were concerned about the hairstyles and loud music of the younger one. Hence, if you are becoming disaffected with social media takeover, despairing about hubristic politicians, and frustrated by housing crises, it’s worth remembering, in the words of Harold Macmillan that most Britons ‘have never had it so good’. We are living longer, we are travelling further and our buying power increases almost every year. And so, whilst like the Queen in 1992 any one of us might have an ‘annus horribilis’, as a human race, 2018 isn’t that year. In fact, researchers at Harvard have pinpointed the precise year that was the worst – 536 AD. In this year, the Earth was plunged into darkness by a thick cloud of volcanic ash that lasted 18 months, which caused temperatures to drop severely, precipitated the mass failure of crops and led to global starvation. Not long after, the bubonic ‘Plague of Justinian’ hit the Roman port of Pelusium in Egypt, wiping out half of the population of the eastern Roman Empire, and leading to global economic collapse. Something to bear in mind, next time your mouse doesn’t work properly.