History, Exemplarity and Improvements: 18th Century Ideas about Man-Made Climate Change

Anne Eriksen
2019 Culture Unbound: Journal of Current Cultural Research  
Can grain crops be increased? The issue was heatedly debated in 18th century Denmark-Norway, both for patriotic and economic reasons. The historian Gerhard Schøning (1722-80) answered affirmatively. Chopping down much of the forests that covered Norway would change the climate radically for the better. As a consequence of the warmer weather, the fertility of the soil would improve. Crops would increase, and new and even more delicate types of plants could be introduced. Schøning's argument was
more » ... ing's argument was nearly entirely built on examples from Greek and Roman history, cited to demonstrate that since classical times, this kind of changes had already taken place in other parts of Europe. Climate interested a number of 18 th century writers. It was not only a part of geotheory, but also included in theories about the history of society, law and culture as well as in medical thought. Ideas about a human-made climate change similar to Schøning's can be found in texts by e.g. Hume and Buffon. The argument relied on a quantity of examples, as well as on the uncontested exemplarity of classical literature itself. Schøning's examples represent both series and ideals. The cases he cites are numerous (serial) instantiations of the same general mechanism: The effect of human interventions in nature.
doi:10.3384/cu.2000.1525.1909302 fatcat:schysn2wh5a6vjcxfgvkgeqmlm