How a Volcano Killed Five Million People and Caused the French Revolution in the Process

  • What triggered the French Evolution, in which the peasant class overthrew the aristocracy, culminating in the execution of King Louis XVI? In a history class you’ll learn about how rising income disparity and food prices led to starvation and, eventually, revolt. But what caused those food prices to rise? According to TED founder Richard Saul Wurman, between the years 1783 and 1785 an Icelandic volcano called Laki erupted, spewing sulfuric acid into the air that led to the erosion of crops and the death of five million people. Among those who were affected by the eruption were French citizens, many of whom died of starvation.

  • Simon Owens is a journalist living in Washington, DC. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+. Email him at [email protected]