Rethinking centres and peripheries in the Enlightenment: toward a global history of science

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    Abstract

    This essay begins with a focus on how centre-periphery relations have been construed by historians of science since the middle of the twentieth century. It then suggests an alternative view of the historically embedded networks within which knowledge has circulated. Instead of adopting an a priori geography in which scientific ‘progress’ flowed from the ‘centre’ to the ‘periphery’, it argues for recovering the original indeterminacy of historical events as they unfolded by investigating ‘centres of accumulation’ around the world. This approach, illustrated by the cases of eighteenth-century Canton and Nagasaki, allows us to examine how local and quite mundane efforts to manage processes of accumulation and exchange fed the productive circulation of knowledge and material goods. Rather than constructing the history of science out of the rare and unique building blocks provided by scientific ‘heroes’ and their breakthroughs, daily activities are here shown to provide science’s fundamental bricks and mortar
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)-
    JournalAchttiende eeuw
    Volume44
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2012

    Keywords

    • METIS-303137
    • IR-90245

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