2020 Is Not The Worst Year Ever, That Honour Belongs To 536 CE

by : Mike Williams on : 25 Oct 2020 17:21
2020 Is Not The Worst Year Ever, That Honour Belongs To 536 CEPA Images

If you were under the impression 2020 is officially the worst year ever, think again.

Sure, anyone living today will likely deem this one of the most unpleasant of years they have ever experienced – with politics seeming more divisive than ever, the coronavirus pandemic, raging wildfires in Australia and the western United States, the Arctic not freezing, Brexit, and the UK government refusing to help out families in need – but they’d sadly be wrong.


Despite the countless worries the modern world faces, it’s presently actually the safest time to live in humanity’s relatively short period here on Earth, and the consensus of scientists and historians says 536 CE was hands-down the most godawful year.


In a 2018 interview with Science Magazine titled ‘Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’, medieval historian at Harvard, Michael McCormick, said: ‘It was the beginning of one of the worst periods to be alive, if not the worst year.’

Set to one side the possibility of bloody wars or killer diseases, what proved unbearable was the extreme weather and famine that swept the globe. It’s theorised that these things occurred because of a ‘volcanic winter’, whereby ash and dust were propelled so forcefully into the sky it obscured the sun.


A study believes the explosive culprit was located in Iceland. The result from this was, as historians claim, a Late Antique Little Ice Age that caused famine and global crop failure, with snow falling in China during the summer and severe droughts hitting Peru.


The year was also cited as having ‘a failure of bread’ meaning food all over the world became scarce. A plague ravaged the Byzantine Empire taking the lives of more than 300,000 people before they stopped counting.

Experts say the eruption was so severe that it brought down entire empires, including the total collapse of the Sasanian Empire, the steep decline of the Eastern Roman Empire, and chaotic political upheavals across China.


We all freak out when the sky turns a funny colour due to wildfires or Saharan dust clouds, just imagine dealing with a volcanic winter more than 1,400 years before central heating or smartphones.

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  1. Science Magazine

    Why 536 was ‘the worst year to be alive’