Our own fault. Notions of man as the author of his own misery, from the black death to the climate crisis.

Project: Dissertation

Layman's description

Global warming is depicted today as one of the most serious threats to the survival of our species. If the climate researchers’ worst case scenarios hit us and their human-centered causal explanations are correct, we ourselves are responsible for our imminent destruction. In this project, this view of human beings’ responsibility is placed and investigated in a broad historic context.

Within the northwestern European cultural sphere there have long been ideas about human beings themselves bearing the responsibility for the catastrophes that befall or threaten to befall them. This human-centered explanatory model is highly topical today too, not least in connection with the climate issue. This fateful issue holds a dominant position in today’s flow of news.

The climate issue also plays a starring role in this thesis project, but for obvious reasons, the meteorological process lies outside the area of expertise of a historian. Instead, the focus is placed on the cultural dimensions of the climate issue and thus in particular on the comprehensive human-centered explanatory model and its moral implications.

On this level, the climate issue has major similarities with the way in which people interpreted catastrophic events, such as wars and epidemics, in northwestern Europe in the medieval and early modern era. At that time, such appalling phenomena were seen as God’s punishment for the sins of humans.

The black death and the climate issue respectively constitute the chronological starting point and ending for this project. What happened in between is investigated through various focal points. The human-centered causal explanation is kept in focus throughout the entire project, but is not considered as a historical constant. Its forms of expression as well as its influence have varied over time. The aim of this thesis is to study these variations.
Effective start/end date2008/09/012012/12/31