Sebastian Felten

Postdoctoral Fellow
Postdoctoral Fellows are early career scholars who are ordinarily no more than five years past the granting of the doctorate and who are financed in part or in whole by the MPIWG. These scholars carry minor responsibilities (no more than 10% of their time) within their research unit.
Department II
September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2018

Sebastian Felten is a Postdoctoral Fellow at the MPIWG. His current work is focused on the practice of “note-taking" in eighteenth and nineteenth-century mining and addresses a fundamental problem of environmental history: How does one conceptualize human-natural interaction if opposing society and nature is as misguided as conflating the two? The project investigates how systematic note-taking in commerce, administration and science created discrete environments that humans could act upon. Mining is a particularly apt context for this study as it was capital-intensive, highly regulated and increasingly dependent on scientific expertise. Furthermore, it was a human activity that had a visible impact on the “environment,” triggering reflection by contemporaries on the consequences of their actions from early on.

Sebastian’s project builds on a study of historical accounting practices carried out as part of his PhD at King’s College, London (“Unlikely Circuits: General Monetisation of a European Rural Society, c. 1700-1900,” supervised by Anne Goldgar and Francisco Bethencourt).

Sebastian has also worked for the German Historical Institute (GHI) in London as part of the digital edition project “Pauper Letters and Petitions for Poor Relief in Germany and Great Britain, 1770–1914,” where he supervised the transcription and input of metadata, liaised between IT and researchers, designed the user interface with the programmer, and developed a keen interest in Digital Humanities.


Max Planck Institute for the History of Science 
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