8. Europe felt a similar disaster simultaneously, in the United Kingdom and on the continent
Europe in 1816 was entering its first full year without the threat imposed by the presence of Napoleon Bonaparte in France. The British Navy, nearly 800 ships strong at the end of the Napoleonic Wars, was reducing itself rapidly, its sailors at last free to pursue more profitable employment. Farms across Europe had been the food supply for marching armies, which foraged liberally to supply themselves, paying with promissory notes of dubious value when paying at all. Hundreds of thousands of recently detached soldiers wandered across Europe, as its monarchs decided the fate of the peoples who had endured and supported thirty years of warfare. All of Europe longed for a restoration of trade and the availability of food. Yet, if anything, the spring of 1816 was worse in Europe than in North America.
Unlike the United States and Canada, which began the spring abnormally dry, Europe suffered deluges of rain, which followed a winter of abnormally high snowfalls. In Italy, silk was a major contributor to the economy, and the chill, damp spring played havoc with the harvest, which led to an increase in the cost of gentlemen’s neckwear and other necessities within a year. France and Belgium saw rains of monsoon strength, and the rare days with no precipitation were nonetheless damp and raw. Switzerland saw more than 100 days of rain in a period of 120. In France, citizens who opposed the restoration of the Bourbon Monarchy – no matter the constitutional restraints – blamed the weather on the weather, and the problems it caused on the government of Louis XVIII, leading to the imposition of draconian anti-radical laws, which targeted clerics, academics, writers, and artists, in fear of a repetition of the mobs of 1789.