As part of the Digital Workshop Series "Digital Dialogues 數字對話", researchers will discuss various aspects and questions of the joint project.
The Interpretation of Natural Events in European and Chinese History: A Digital Dialogue
July 28, 2021, 1.15 – 2.45 pm CET via Zoom.
Contrasting the cases of medieval Europe and imperial China, the two speakers, Dr. habil. Thomas Wozniak and Dr. Ishayahu Landa, will discuss the interpretation of natural events such as solar eclipses, ‘dragons’ or famine. They will particularly focus on the political significance of these phenomena, trying to pinpoint some of the differences and similarities between these geographically separate civilizations, which held distinct views on the relation between humanity and the larger natural forces.
Contemporary observers in medieval Europe found themselves in a tension between the expectation of the Apocalypse on the one hand, whose natural events were laid down in a kind of canon of expectations in John's Gospel, and the natural events actually experienced on the other. While the various trumpets failed to appear in the predicted order, other natural signs occurred that had to be explained. The approach depended on the previous education of the scribes and their intentions with regard to the sources produced.
Today, these events necessitate an elaborate case-by-case examination. Especially in the case of astronomical events, however, mathematical regularities make it possible to check them against modern calculations, which allows insights into the reliability of the sources.
In China, the ‘heavenly mandate’ plays a central role in legitimatory discourses and the understanding of power transition. However, the interpretation of natural events and calamities is quite dynamic over the course of history and needs to be critically assessed: The question which role natural events and their consequences play always has to be considered in its interplay with specific social and political constellations.
Dr. habil. Thomas Wozniak is a medievalist who has worked on the urban, social, economic and environmental history of the European Middle Ages. In 2017, he finished his habilitation thesis on natural events in the early Middle Ages.
Dr. Ishayahu Landa is a scholar of Islamic, Middle Eastern and East Asian Studies. He is currently pursuing a DFG-funded habilitation project on “The ‘Great Mongol Crisis’ of the Fourteenth Century: Preconditions, Processes, Consequences”.
Matthias Schumann, Postdoctoral Researcher, Heidelberg University
The participation at the Digital Workshop Series is open to everyone, who registers prior to the event. To register please send an e-mail to Matthias Schumann: matthias.schumann[at]zo.uni-heidelberg.de. Registered participants will receive the Zoom link to join the Dialogues.