Mercurial Activity and Subterranean Landscapes: Towards an Environmental History of Mercury Mining in Early Modern Idrija


Mercury is a substance which throughout history has moved freely between nature and humans, between nature and culture. Hollsten focuses on the mercury mines at Idrija in order to trace the movement of this material and the various ways its history intersects with human history. Hollsten argues that humans—the miners who were made sick by the mercury vapors and those who became rich from its trade—are not the principle agents in these material networks. Rather, mercury had what Jane Bennett calls “thing power” in the sense that a whole mining operation was created around it, extending from areas deep in the earth to destinations in Europe and beyond.