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History: The Little Ice Age in Britain – An Iceworld Activity

Painting: Thames Frost Fair, 1683-84, by Thomas WykeThis activity is about the impact of climate change as previously seen in history. In this activity you and your students will be looking at the period referred to as the ‘Little Ice Age’, and the conditions people of the time lived in.

During the Little Ice Age (which ran from the 16th to the 19th century) winters in Europe were much colder than they are today, with snow common at low altitudes and canals, lakes and rivers freezing much more commonly. The Thames even froze in London a number of times, allowing ‘frost fairs’ to take place – the last one was in 1814 and featured an elephant walking underneath Blackfriar’s Bridge! Depictions of the Little Ice Age in art and literature may also be responsible for all those snowy scenes we see on Christmas cards in the UK even though there were only 7 white Christmases in the whole of the 20th century.

The main thing that students should take away from this activity is that climate change is not just something that might happen, but something that HAS happened in the past!


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