Andreas Bähr, born in 1968, works as an associate professor in Modern History at the Freie Universität Berlin. And he has been leading the DFG project “Athanasius Kircher (1602-1680) . A Biographical Encyclopaedia” at the Humboldt-University in Berlin since 2014.
THE VISCIOUS COMET
The beginnings of the Thirty Years’ War are often traced back to the Defenestrations of Prague in May 1618. For contemporaries, however, the war sprang from on an altogether different event. December that year saw a bright winter comet light up the night skies, with a rod-shaped tail. Many saw this as a foreboding message from God that prophesied a terrible war.
Andreas Bähr tracks responses to the comet’s appearance through the war years from 1618 to 1648 and shows how important religion was to Early Modern explanations of the world. Signs of God’s anger or leniency had direct effects on earthly events, and heavenly bodies were seen as important predictors of the war’s course.
This book highlights specific aspects of the Thirty Years’ War from the perspective of those yearning for points of fixed reference in a violent, confused period of history. It focusses on actors belonging to different social strata and religions, including René Descartes, who we meet during a dispute about the comet and its significance that shows just how closely religion and science were entangled in the Early Modern era. Bähr demonstrates how important religion was to Early Modern explanations of the world.