Venue: Small Committee Room (K0.31), King’s College London, King’s Building
Date: 11:30 – 12:30, Thursday 29 June 2017
Abstract: Scholars in recent decades have challenged a crude historical dialectic that posed the scientific revolution as a modernizing challenge to the sclerosis of literary-oriented humanism. Instead, they have shown that the innovative models and methods devised by early modern luminaries like Francis Bacon and Galileo Galilei adapted elements of a dynamic contemporary humanistic culture. Similarly, though less well explored, scholars have shown that practices associated with the scientific revolution such as quantification and empiricism were significant to contemporary politics, history, and law as well. Natural philosophy, astronomy, natural history, philology, history, and art were often intertwined, and imposing a hard boundary between “science” and the “humanities” in the early modern period now appears anachronistic.
Nonetheless, fundamental assumptions rooted in this dichotomy still pervade early modern history of science and intellectual history, and consequently, we still misunderstand the transformations that took place between the sixteenth and eighteenth centuries. Taking the role of quantification in historical scholarship as a test case, my chapter proposes that mapping the flow of practices across intellectual communities will supply a new logic and narrative for early modern intellectual history. This approach, I argue, will deepen our understanding of the linkages joining early modern Europe’s cultures of knowledge, while also demonstrating how the formation of disciplines and the cleavage of science from the humanities in the late seventeenth century was itself achieved through shifts in practice.
Nicholas Popper is associate professor of history at the College of William and Mary. He is the author of Walter Ralegh’s History of the World and the Historical Culture of the Late Renaissance (Chicago, 2012). He works on early modern intellectual history, history of science, political practice, and the history of the book. His current project examines how the proliferation of archives and manuscript collecting transformed politics and epistemology in early modern Britain. To help with planning, it would be greatly appreciated if you rsvp to: angel-luke.o’firstname.lastname@example.org