Mines, Oceans, Comets. Natural Hazards between Individual Agency and Communal Responsibility in Religious Texts (1550–1650)

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Søren Frank Jensen


Postdoctoral Fellow


Universität Hamburg


DKK 450,000




Internationalisation Fellowships


The project examines religious interpretations of nature in sixteenth and seventeenth-century Northern Europe. During this period, temperatures dropped across the northern hemisphere in what is now known as the Little Ice Age. The project focuses on three cases where communities experienced dangerous exposure to the natural world: 1) Mining, 2) Seafaring, and 3) Comet Observations.


The planetary crisis makes it necessary to expand our understanding of individual agency and communal responsibility towards the natural world. Church historical research helps us see how value systems influence societal discourses on nature. In this case, it uncovers a plurality of religious responses to natural hazards and reveals the fluid thresholds between ‘nature’ and ‘man-made’.


The project integrates church history with the environmental turn in the humanities. The investigation centres on a diverse and understudied corpus of religious publications from 1560–1650, which includes collections of sermons for miners, religious manuals for the daily life of sailors, and prayerbooks responding to comet appearances.

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