By Lisa Smith

Welcome to Supernatural and Natural Worlds in Early Modern Europe! This is the blog for a University of Essex class.

In early modern Europe (ca. 1550-1815), people believed that there was a permeable boundary between the natural (what could be readily observed and explained by natural philosophy) and supernatural worlds (what was hidden, or lay beyond the natural world).

Alphonse de Neuville or A. Jahadier, Intepretation of Robertson’s Fantasmagorie (1867). Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Our module explores the shifting meanings of the supernatural and natural worlds during a period that encompassed three major shifts in intellectual outlook: the Reformation, Scientific Revolution and Enlightenment. This was an age of collecting and classifying knowledge, objects… and wonders!

Not only did the relationship between natural philosophy and God undergo profound changes, but the shifts simultaneously resulted in many supernatural beliefs (e.g. werewolves) becoming less plausible while raising the possibility of other mysterious creatures (e.g. vampires and extraterrestrial life).

Please check in to read posts by my students, exploring the ways in which early modern people understood the boundaries between human and animal, body and soul, life and death, science and religion, and reality and imagination.


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