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Knowledge economies of mining in the 16th and 17th centuries

Subproject by Dr. Helge Wendt

In the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, writings from the field of practical mining led to a new way of thinking about nature. The social, material, and cognitive dimensions of knowledge about subterranean space were combined to deal with questions about geology, materials, their origin, and usability. Attempts were also made to arrange and classify this knowledge using ancient writings on natural history. Authors such as Georg Agricola, Bernard Palissy, Jean Béguin, or Ulrich Rülein von Calw combined theory and practice, experience and reason from different fields of natural history, natural philosophy, medicine, and practical mining to understand this new knowledge about the subterranean world. The subproject aims to investigate this epistemological dynamic of the economy of mining knowledge with three questions: How did authors position themselves as practitioners or theorists in this field of knowledge? What rhetorical strategies did they pursue? How did they combine these strategies with empirical material?