My dissertation is an attempt to explore the epistemic background of the formation of the Swedish, English, and Dutch empires in the 16th and early 17th centuries. At the intersection of the history of science and knowledge, the history of religious thought and expectations, and the history of exploration, I hope to bridge some historiographical divides between the study of imperialism, millenarianism, and North Atlantic, Arctic, and polar knowledge. In exploring the northernmost latitudes, ‘geographers’ intervened in various fields long problematised as historiographical fields in their own right although they then very much intertwined, from natural philosophy to cartography, humanistic history-writing, alchemy, astrology, eschatology, prophecy, glaciology, and maritime and colonial law.
At Oxford, I intend to explore the rich holdings of the Bodleian Libraries, particularly in the area of ‘esotericism’, hoping to show that this label makes little sense in the ‘polymathic’ spirit of the late Renaissance. In particular, I examine the geographical knowledge of Scandinavian, English, Dutch and German astrologers and natural philosophers, and their search for the many ‘secrets of nature’ that the Arctic ventures of the Renaissance uncovered, from magnetism to the polar stars and their providential significance, pointing e.g. to a final Nordic empire before the end times. The Ashmole manuscripts are particularly rich in this respect.
Could you please tell us a bit more about your scholarship/exchange programme?
I am the monthly resident of the Maison Française d’Oxford for May 2023. This scholarship offers excellent working conditions, whether to explore the university’s valuable historical collections or connect with Oxford researchers, refine my project and think about my next research steps.
First impressions of Oxford/the University?
I am enjoying the special atmosphere of early May in Oxford. It is very pleasant to start my work at the Bodleian while being immersed in various academic, social and cultural environments – whether English, French or international. The exam season, with its academic and festive traditions and the upcoming royal coronation, give Oxford a quintessentially British flair at this time of year.