I am a historian of early modern political thought, working on topics from the German Reformation to the Early Enlightenment and from Denmark/Norway to the Coast of West Africa. I am particularly interested in how different theories of natural law were used to justify and legitimise interests in different religious, political, commercial and colonial conflicts in early modern history.


My first project was a contextual study of the political philosophy of the Wittenberg reformer Philipp Melanchthon and the first formulations of Protestant natural law theories. It investigated the different theories of natural law which Melanchthon developed and the purposes for which he applied (or didn’t apply) them in his political philosophical works. An early fruit of this project was an article on Melanchthon’s commentary on Aristotle’s Politics published in History of Political Thought.


28.11.2014 PhD in History from the Department of History, University College London.
Thesis title: Philipp Melanchthon’s Political Philosophy, 1518-1547.

01.11.2010 MA (distinction) in the History of Political Thought and Intellectual History from Queen Mary, University of London and University College London.

29.06.2009 BA in the History of Ideas from Aarhus University, Denmark.

Other Publications

Jensen, Mads. ‘Contests about Natural Law in Early Enlightenment Copenhagen’. History of European Ideas 42, no. 8 (16 November 2016): 1027–41. doi:10.1080/01916599.2016.1182045.

Jensen, Mads. ‘By convention or by nature – Melanchthon’s criticism of late medieval Ockhamist political thought in the Commentarii in aliquot politicos libros Aristotelis‘, History of Political Thought, Vol. XXXV. No. 1. Spring 2014.

Jensen, Mads. ‘Ulydighed og modstand mod øvrigheden i tidlig luthersk politisk tænkning’, Kritik 199, 2011.

Blog Posts


    I am currently working on two related projects.

    One is a study of the early reception of Grotian and Post-Grotian natural law in late seventeenth and early eighteenth century Denmark-Norway. This the first in depth study of the establishment of natural law as an academic discipline as well as its political uses. It focuses on the first generation of natural law teachers, from Henrik Weghorst and Christian Reitzer in the 1690s over Christoph Heinrich Amthor to Andreas Hojer. In articles, I have discussed how proponents of very different schools of natural law vied for influence, how natural law was used to justify Danish foreign policy and domestic reforms, as well as its significance for the wider intellectual culture in Denmark-Norway in the decades around 1700. A final product of the project will be a monograph on the life and works of two radical followers of Christian Thomasius, Christoph Heinrich Amthor and Andreas Hojer.

    Another project traces the different uses of natural law to justify Danish colonialism in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. The project investigates how natural law and the law of nations was a key resource in the economic, military and political contests, as well as the wider knowledge production following from the Danish colonialism. My work has thus far focused on Danish colonialism and slave trade on the “Gold Coast” in West Africa (present day Ghana), but the project aims to cover Danish colonialism in India, the West Indies, and Greenland.


    Member of Natural Law 1625-1850. An International Research Project.

    Mads Langballe Jensen

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