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Mads Jensen


Personlig profil


I am a historian of early modern political thought with a particular interest in theories of natural law. My research explores the ways thinkers developed theories of natural law to tackle the religious and political developments of their time, from the Protestant reformation of the sixteenth century, over the enlightenment period in Denmark-Norway, to European overseas colonisation in West Africa and the Caribbean.

As a Marie Skłodowska-Curie Fellow at Lund Universitets Historiska Institutionen, I lead a project entitled "CoDaCO: Constructing the Danish Colonial State in Global Contexts". This project aims to write the first global intellectual history of Denmark as a colonial state. Between the introduction of absolutism (1660) and its replacement by constitutional monarchy (1849), the Kingdom of Denmark established itself as a medium-sized colonial power with a global reach, from India to the West Indies, and from West Africa to the Arctic. The project focuses on the years 1784-1807, a period unique in the colonial history of Denmark, and arguably much of the rest of the world. Not subject to revolutions itself, the Danish state took the opportunities offered by the revolutionary upheavals and resulting wars to attempt to reposition itself in the new global political, commercial, and intellectual order. This meant reconceptualising and reconstructing the Danish colonial state in global contexts, informed by new ideas of state, government, and economics. This project undertakes the first systematic study of Danish colonialism in all its global locations: India, Africa, the Caribbean, and Greenland. It adopts a novel method drawing on global intellectual history and history of knowledge to analyse a series of reforms in Denmark and of colonial policies in the decades following the palace coup of 1784. It is first time that the reforms and colonial schemes across the Danish empire in the decades following 1780, as well as the public discussions of these, are systematically analysed, and as a whole. 

Additionally, I am a member of the European research network "Natural Law 1625-1850. An International Research Project". In this connection, I lead a DFG-funded project at the Interdisciplinary Centre for European Enlightenment Studies in Halle on the history of academic natural law and its intellectual and practical significance in the kingdom of Denmark-Norway c. 1690-1773. From the 1690s, natural law was established as an academic discipline at the University of Copenhagen, with significant links to Halle, leading to an increase in lectures and publications in the subject. In practical terms, natural law was used to justify the absolutist monarchy, its domestic reforms, and overseas colonialism. The project aims to investigate the full extent of academic teaching of natural law in Denmark-Norway c. 1690-1773. It engages with a wide range of printed and manuscript sources, from student notes over printed works to administrative correspondence. This project is paused for the duration of my MSCA fellowship.

In the past, I have worked on the intellectual history of the Protestant reformation. As a doctoral student in history at UCL, I wrote my thesis on the moral and political philosophy of the Wittenberg reformer Philipp Melanchthon. This now a book published with Brill:


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