|Global Dimensions of European Knowledge, 1450-1700
ABSTRACTS OF PAPERS
Plenary session: Oceans, Empires and Knowledge
Prof. Ricardo Padrón (University of Virginia)
The Pacific Ocean: The Missing Link in Hispanic Globalization
Prof. Nicolás Wey-Gómez (California Institute of Technology)
Passage to India: Europe’s quest for the tropics in the age of exploration
Dr Michiel van Groesen (University of Amsterdam)
An ocean of rumours: the Atlantic world and the quest for reliable information in early modern Europe
National and linguistic boundaries have traditionally formed boundaries of scholarly expertise. This session showcases innovative approaches to working across these divides. The papers signal ways of understanding knowledge c. 1450-1700 in terms of its global connections. They take the ocean as a point of departure for exploring the impact on European knowledge of information circulation, imperial desires and cosmographical theories. Van Groesen’s paper examines problems of evidence and testimony in the circulation of colonial news, rumours and (mis)information across different regions of the Atlantic world. Focussing on Brazil, the Caribbean and West Africa, it excavates the path of information from these regions to the Low Countries – either directly, or indirectly via Madrid, Lisbon and England – and the consequences for the nature of knowledge of the chains of transmission. Padrón’s paper makes a case for the importance of the Pacific Ocean in understanding global networks of knowledge. He explores the travel of news from Asia to the Hispanic world by way of the Pacific, and the subsequent invention of a prototypical Pacific Rim in the early modern Hispanic imagination. Wey-Gómez examines Europe’s attempts to find a passage to India in Atlantic Africa, the Americas and the Indian and Pacific Oceans. Usually seen as overlapping but discrete activities, he construes them as an integrated process that entailed Europe’s gradual, and problematic, reawakening to the natural and human resources of an unexpectedly huge, vastly productive and inhabited expanse within the so-called torrid zone.
Paper abstracts for parallel sessions (ordered alphabetically by presenter)
Miruna Achim (Universidad Autómona Metropolitana, Mexico City)
From rustics to savants: the uses of indigenous materia medica in colonial New Spain
This talk explores the ways indigenous knowledge about plant and animal remedies was gathered, classified, ‘translated’, tested, and circulated across wide networks of exchange for natural knowledge between Europe and the Americas. There has been much recent interest in the “bioprospecting” of local natural resources – medical and otherwise—by Europeans in the early modern world. However, some opacity continues to surround the description of how knowledge traveled. While the strategies employed by European travelers, missionaries, or naturalists have been well-documented, there has been less written on the role played by indigenous and creole intermediaries in this process. And yet, the transmission of knowledge between indigenous communities and the European cabinet was neither transparent nor natural, and often involved epistemological, linguistic, and religious obstacles. Drawing on a number of printed and manuscript sources, collections of indigenous remedies, written in places as diverse as Guatemala, the Yucatán, Chiapas, and Mexico City, in the sixteenth through the eighteenth centuries, I am interested in exploring how local intermediaries, like creoles scholars, sought to overcome such obstacles by observing indigenous uses of remedies, by studying indigenous languages and by producing natural histories and pharmacopeias in indigenous languages (Nahuatl and Maya Quiché, for instance). Ultimately, behind the creole participation in the transmission of indigenous remedies, one can point to more inclusive definitions of knowledge, which cut across oppositions between science and superstition, cabinet and field, center and periphery.
Ralph Bauer (University of Maryland)
Prophecy, Discovery, and the Secrets of the Indies
Recent scholarship has focused on how the “New World” was not so much found as it was made, or invented, during the early modern period in correspondence to shifts in socio- and geo-political organization—be it with regard to changing geographical conceptions of the world or to the epistemological ground rules according to which the world may be known. Indeed, historians and literary critics have investigated how the modern notion of “discovery” was itself made, or invented, during the early modern period, in the process of which the very meaning of the word “to discover” underwent, in all Western European languages, a semantic shift—from a sense of ‘unveiling’ something (already known) to the sense of finding (something new). This talk investigates the role that prophecy played as a literary form and narrative strategy in this semantic shift in some of the key texts of the early modern European encounter with the New World—texts such as Columbus’s travel journals and Book of Prophecies, Pedro Martire’s Décadas, and Richard Eden’s translation of Sebastian Münster’s Cosmographia and Ferdinando Gorges’s America Painted to Life. I read their prophecies in the context of the Renaissance cosmographical debates about what’s been called the ‘uncertain impact’ of the European encounter with the Americas upon the history of Western knowledge and suggest that prophecy frequently functions rhetorically in these accounts to sidestep and ultimately resolve the apparent tensions between the weighty textual traditions constituting Renaissance cosmography and the increasing importance placed on empirical information. In the interstices between the known and new, the “Indies” were presented in these accounts essentially as an occult fact, whose ‘secrets’ had been providentially guarded by an arcane tradition of prophets now ‘discovered’ by the Renaissance magus. Thus, in the sixteenth-century debates between the “Ancients” and the “Moderns,” prophecy provided an important rhetorical vehicle for the emergence of a progressivist understanding of the history of human knowledge.
Alexander Bick (Princeton University)
'We Dare Not Stick Our Noses Outside the Fort':
Commercial Intelligence, State Policy, and the 1645 Revolt in Dutch Brazil
In late August 1645 a batch of secret letters from Recife informed the directors of the Dutch West India Company that a revolt had broken out among Portuguese planters in their prized colony in northeastern Brazil. This news, together with the Company's ongoing financial troubles, fascinated the Dutch elite and inaugurated a series of negotiations over whether, and how, to save the embattled company and its colony. This paper examines the news from Brazil and its immediate ramifications for the formulation of colonial policy within the Dutch Republic. It explores the diversity of sources of information about Brazil that were available to decision makers in the Netherlands; the circuits — manuscript, printed, and oral — along which information travelled; and the ways in which information was manipulated by company officials to influence policy within the States of Holland, the States of Zeeland, and the States General. Particular attention is paid to the Leiden scholar Johannes de Laet, and to the relationship between his more familiar work as an historian and geographer and his less well-known role as an advocate and strategist for the West India Company.
The paper draws on company correspondence, witness testimonials, meeting minutes, petitions, pamphlets, and other documents to provide a detailed portrait of the inner workings of a 17th century mercantile company and the ways it used information to forge political concensus around its imperial ambitions.
Josiah Blackmore (University of Toronto)
Materia Africana: Vehicles of knowledge exchange between Portugal and Africa
This paper presents a synthesis of the textual manners and means of importing knowledge about Africa into Portugal during the late medieval and early modern periods. In those years, especially prior to the seventeenth century, a variety of historical circumstances generated an almost endless proliferation of documents whose objectives were the transmission of numerous sorts of information to the Portuguese metropole. The paper will survey the several forms and types of knowledge transmission based in documents – letters, reports, and longer accounts that respond to various circumstances – and will also analyze the kinds of knowledge present in these documents during the initial centuries of empire. Political, religious, cartographic, geographic, and “cultural” information all constitute a vast knowledge-gathering enterprise. The paper includes documents written both by Europeans and by Africans writing in Portuguese. Some documents pertain to religious matters such as conversion, while others detail a wide range of practical exigencies, including political ones, faced by those who were, to some degree, in official communication with the Portuguese court and the administrators of empire. Other documents relate to trade, travel, and the information to be obtained from native inhabitants or by Europeans living in African territories.
Pablo Ariel Blitstein (Institut National de Langues et Civilisations [INALCO], Paris)
See under Ana Carolina Hosne
Hugh Glenn Cagle (Rutgers University)
A Science out of Place: Text, Context, and the Translation of Garcia de Orta’s Colóquios
Perhaps no figure from Portugal’s empire is better known than the physician Garcia de Orta. His Colóquios dos simples e drogas . . . da Índia was printed in Goa in 1563 and then famously translated into Latin by Dutch naturalist Carolus Clusius in time for the Frankfurt book fair of 1567. Less well known are the changes that Clusius made in the act of translation. He did not simply convert Orta’s Portuguese into Latin; he edited the content, added woodcut illustrations (there were none in the original), changed the order of chapters, created new divisions within the text, and eliminated the original dialogue form in favor of a purely expository one. Through circulation, Orta’s work was transformed. Clusius and Orta were engaged in projects that were similar but not the same. Both men sought to accumulate and organize information about the natural world beyond Europe. But each of them came to rather different conclusions about what kind of text that effort demanded, about what sorts of details were necessary to make sense of their collections, and how best to render their work legible to their respective audiences.
We know a great deal about Clusius and the influences that shaped his editorial vision. In this paper, I attempt to reconstruct the making of the Colóquios. My primary concern is for Orta’s own authorial decisions, which I interpret in light of the network of apothecaries, merchants, slaves, and statesmen who constituted his discursive community in Goa. At stake are a number of basic questions: What might Orta have intended his book to do? If his aim were (as is so often claimed) to introduce his readers to the exotic materia medica of South Asia then why did he organize it alphabetically—an order that obscured rather than highlighted the few plants that were actually novel to readers in the West? Why did he write in Portuguese instead of Latin? Was his intended readership a community of humanist scholars and physicians back home? Rather than assume (again, as is so often the case) that Orta could not include illustrations in the text, why might he have actually chosen not to? Instead of probing his work for traces of an emerging “modern” empirical sensibility, how might Orta have understood such concepts as “experiment” and “experience” (esprimentar and experiência)—terms he often used? What did they mean in the Colóquios? What was their function—for Orta—in the production and verification of truth claims about the natural world?
Daniel Carey (National University of Ireland, Galway)
Locke and Sati
The subject of sati – the name for widows burned in Hindu ritual – became a standard component of European ethnography of India in the early modern period, discussed in an array of sources and depicted in numerous illustrations. This paper considers John Locke’s philosophical reflection on sati. Locke’s exceptionally wide reading of contemporary travel account describing the non-European world filtered into his work in a number of ways, notably in the critique of innateness in the first book of the Essay concerning Human Understanding (1690). The origins of this critique appear in Locke’s (unpublished) Essays on the Law of Nature, delivered in Oxford in the early 1660s, where he considered different foundations for natural law, including innateness and common consent. In order to disprove common consent, he cited sati in a passage from the German traveller J.A. von Mandelslo. His purpose was to show that even the fundamental impulse of self-preservation was routinely overcome in the customs of other countries.
Locke’s discussion of this practice was reworked in early drafts of the Essay as part of the formal critique of innateness, but then abandoned in the published version. The question I want to pursue is why Locke chose not to include sati as an example of social difference in the Essay. I suggest that this instance points to a conflict in Locke’s anthropology: one aspect of his theory preserved diversity in order to disprove common consent and therefore innateness; but in the years following his Oxford lectures he had also developed developed his commitments to natural law – in the context of the Two Treatises of Government, where, I suggest, ‘non-confirming’ instances were far from welcome.
Susanne Friedrich (Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich)
Le Maire contra VOC. How a Conflict between Two Trading Companies
Affected the Dissemination of Knowledge
The paper examines how rivalries between trading companies affected the interpretation, use and the dissemination of geographical knowledge. This will be done by means of a closer analysis of the informational aspects of the struggle between the Dutch East India Company (Verenigde Ostindische Compagnie/ VOC) and the Australische Compangnie of Isaac Le Maire.
The conflict originated in two decisions of the State General. The one assigned the monopoly in the Asian trade to the VOC (1602), the other allowed some merchants to search for new routes (1614). On behalf of the Australische Compagnie Jacob Le Maire and Willem Jansz. Schouten discovered a new way to the Pacific round Cape Horn. But their circumnavigation of the world (1615–1617) ended abruptly in Java, where the VOC confiscated ship and papers because of infringement of its monopoly. This caused not only legal proceedings, but also a quarrel over the official interpretation of actions and the right to decide on the information collected by the expedition. The latter two aspects become evident in the travel accounts and maps published in the course of the conflict. Contrary to his wishes, Le Maire did not succeed in his attempts to suppress the dissemination of knowledge regarding Cape Horne, which he claimed to be exclusive for his Company. But his interventions resulted in retardation of publications, and alternations in the subsequently published texts.
Exclusive knowledge over the area of operation seemed suddenly vital for a trading company. Against this background, it is no surprise that at the same time within the VOC developed a debate over secrecy. As a culmination of that, in 1619 the company acquired the privilege that no one may publish information on its area of operation without its consent.
Andrea Frisch (University of Maryland, College Park)
Experience and Cosmography in André Thevet
This talk examines the encounter between the cosmographic impulse of André Thevet (1516-1590) and the “singularities” – as Thevet called them – of Antarctic France, or Brazil. In Mapping the Renaissance World, Frank Lestringant interpreted Thevet’s writings as unwitting evidence of the decline of the cosmographic tradition, arguing that the future would belong to the “topographers” called for by Montaigne. Highlighting the tension between the profusion of local and particular details, on the one hand, and the drive towards a grand synthesis, on the other, this view does not take adequate account of the ways in which Thevet’s notion of “experience” mediates between these two apparently opposed points of reference.
I propose to examine Thevet’s integration of experience into cosmography in the context both of Montaigne’s Essais and of the writings of Thevet’s nemesis Jean de Léry, who explicitly contested the cosmographer’s use of the term. Much more than a bare empirical encounter with reality, “experience” as conceived of by all three of these writers has the capacity to function as a principle of coherence with a potentially cosmographic scope. Far from marking the decline of the cosmographic impulse, then, Thevet’s works ultimately help us understand how such an inclination could be maintained in the face of new and proliferating particularities.
Anne Gerritsen (University of Warwick)
European Knowledge about Chinese and Japanese Porcelain Manufactures in the Seventeenth Century
This paper proposes to explore European knowledge of Asian manufactures of porcelain in the seventeenth century. I am interested in what seventeenth-century travellers knew about the sites and processes of ceramics manufacture in China (Jingdezhen) and Japan (Arita). What will transpire is a marked contrast in the perceptions of these two sites: an increasing understanding in terms of production and quality in the case of Jingdezhen’s ceramics, and an ongoing lack of insight and appreciation of Japanese ceramics. Johan Nieuhof’s (1618-1672?) descriptions of Jingdezhen enhanced the perception in Europe that China produced an unrivalled quality of ceramics, and that Chinese ceramics all originated from one place only. Olfert Dapper’s (1639-1689) account and the writings by Louis le Comte (1655-1728) develop and expand Nieuhof’s account, adding new knowledge and more a refined appreciation of the aesthetics of Chinese ceramics. Arnoldus Montanus’ (1625-1683) Atlas Japannensis of 1670, the descriptions of Japan by Engelbert Kaempfer (1651-1716), and the daghregisters by Andreas Cleyer (1634-1697) form my main sources for European perceptions of Japan’s porcelain manufactures. Annual Dutch shipments of porcelain from Japan to Batavia, Suratte, Malacca and the Netherlands were vast. European knowledge of Japanese porcelain, however, never became widespread in Europe. Where Jingdezhen provided ceramics of—to their mind—unquestioned superiority, visitors and merchants remained unsure of how to assess the quality of Japanese ceramics, despite the purchase of vast quantities of items for shipments. In both the case of China and Japan, however, this paper will argue that increasing knowledge of the manufacturing processes of porcelain gradually eroded the sense of wonder and amazement of the material, a process that gained speed after 1710, when porcelain began to be produced in Meissen.
Thomás A. S. Haddad (University of São Paulo, Brazil)
‘Where the Portingales inhabite and govern’: A reading of Van Linschoten’s Itinerario (1596)
After working as a merchant in Seville and in Lisbon for a few years, the Dutch Calvinist Jan Huygen van Linschoten (1563-1611) was named a book-keeper and secretary to the newly appointed archbishop of Goa, the Dominican Vicente da Fonseca, in 1583. Upon his return to Europe almost a decade later, having lived in Goa for six years, Linschoten started publishing travel accounts and sailing instructions that met with extraordinary success. His foremost publication, the Itinerario, published in Dutch in 1596 by Cornelis Claesz (an advance copy being given one year earlier to the first Dutch fleet sailing to the East Indies), was promptly translated into English (1598) at the counsel of Richard Hakluyt, who recommended the book to the British East India Company, and Latin, German and French editions followed suit. Its wide circulation and invaluable sailing advices prompted a modern commentator to call it the “book that launched a thousand ships”, having had direct impact on Dutch, British, French and Danish ventures into Asia. The Itinerario is also, however, a long meditation with moral overtones on Portuguese manners and attitudes toward Goans and toward indigenous systems of knowledge. It is this last aspect that we highlight in this work: How to face the complex chain of mediations present in the book and read it with an eye to the way it represents, to its European public, the interaction between different systems of knowledge in contact and exchange, in the moment of inception of a hybrid, “colonial knowledge” system.
Heidi Hausse (Princeton University)
Cholera, Botany and Authorial Authority in the East Indies
This paper investigates the process of theorization and expression of cholera in the published accounts of Europeans in the sixteenth century. Botanical descriptions of the East Indies detailed by four authors—Ludovico di Varthema, Garcia da Orta, Jan Huyghen van Linschoten and Jacobus Bontius—created the first systematic descriptions of cholera written by Europeans. The manner in which these authors cite one another’s works and the structural style of dialogue of the works themselves reveal the dynamism involved in the formation of contemporary authority—the authority the authors built from one another rather than sole reliance on figures from antiquity. The paper follows the chain of transmission concerning botany and cholera from Ludovico di Varthema to Jacobus Bontius that was held in place following Garcia da Orta’s incidental inclusion of Varthema in his botanical observations. Three important findings arise: the first is the role of plague in the process of envisioning cholera, initially put forward by Garcia da Orta. The second is the discovery that the object which connects the works, fleshy green fruit, was in fact a key component in the process of developing theories of causation and thus prevention of cholera. Last is the proposal that the authors considered indigenous healthcare to constitute a bodily experience tangibly different than the traditional methods of European physicians.
Ana Carolina Hosne (European University Institute, Florence) and Pablo Ariel Blitstein (Institut National de Langues et Civilisations [INALCO], Paris)
Letterati, letrados or shi (士) : what´s in a name? Reflections on the concept of letterati and its circulation throughout the Early Modern World
In the 16th century, the expanding modern world certainly did not lack cultural mediators who in turn reinforced its expansiveness. Among them, the Society of Jesus and its members, cultural mediators and savants, contributed to linking different modernities. Jesuit missions were not isolated from broader frameworks as, inevitably, they were a by-product of the relationship the Society of Jesus established with the Spanish Patronato and the Portuguese Padroado. In turn, this entailed a close connection with political power, in many different ways. In late Ming China Matteo Ricci (1552-1610) dealt with the scholar-officials throughout the provinces, whom he identified with the Confucian literati ru 儒, his main interlocutors, readers, potential converts as well as friends. Ricci would call them letterati, always stressing that political power throughout the empire was in their hands, with the Emperor on top. But in China they would call themselves shi 士, a definition always subject to an ongoing process of classification and identification since the Han period. The arrival of Ricci, a man of the Italian Renaissance and Humanist tradition, would enrich that category as now he himself was a scholar from the West, a xi shi 西士. This category of letterati fitting the Confucian scholar-officials circulated and reached other missions, such as New Spain, where José de Acosta heard of the Chinese letrados, the ones who ruled China. In Colonial Latin America, Spaniards would keep that category for themselves, be they colonial administrators or missionaries, but not for the potential converts, as they even lacked a writing system.
Through a methodological approach of both comparative and connected histories, we aim to analyze the category of literati itself in Early Modern Europe, then exported to and recreated in late Ming China and Colonial Latin America.
Florence C. Hsia (University of Wisconsin-Madison)
Missionary, mathematician, Jesuit, spy: the limits of going native
In 1696, two chunky octavos appeared from the renowned Parisian printshop of Jean Anisson, director of the Imprimerie royale. Penned by the Jesuit royal mathematician and erstwhile missionary to China Louis Le Comte, the volumes’ charming and urbane letters boasted the freshest and most reliable news concerning the ‘present state’ of that far-off Asian realm. They also exemplified a form of what Ogborn and Withers (2004) have called ‘world writing, here understood as the power to represent the world asserted by a Catholic religious order as it expanded across the face of the early modern globe. Part of a standing Jesuit collaboration with the Académie royale des sciences, addressed to the elite of court, church, and state, and reprinted in nine other editions at Paris, Amsterdam, and London within a few years, Le Comte's ‘topographical, physical, mathematical, mechanical, natural, civil, and ecclesiastical’ observations of the Celestial Empire displayed Jesuit world-making at its most ambitious. Yet they also revealed the epistemological ambiguities of an evangelical enterprise accommodated – many thought overly so – to the pagan culture it sought to convert. This paper explores the limits of such global knowledge-making by examining Jesuit observational, rhetorical, and publication practices surrounding the Middle Kingdom in light of the 1704 History and geographical description of Formosa by the Formosan (and later admitted imposter) George Psalmanazar, which countered Le Comte's letters and other Jesuit impositions on the reading public with an inverted form of going native.
Lia Markey (University of Pennsylvania)
Non-Naturalistic Nature and Natives in Aldrovandi’s Albums
Michel Foucault's assertion that Ulisse Aldrovandi (1522-1605) acquired knowledge of the New World through the study of textual sources ignores the fact that his method of processing novelty focused as much on images as on words. Over a thirty-year period Aldrovandi compiled hundreds of albums of drawings that hover between nature and convention. Many of these drawings/paintings, produced by hired artists who recorded new plants and people from around the world in gouache on paper, were then reproduced in woodcuts for publication in Aldrovandi’s books. While some of these representations of plants, animals, and natives are incredibly detailed and naturalistic, many others are crude representations that convey little sense of depth or dimension. Many of them were painted not from life but were reproduced from other images found in books or in other printed material. Even some drawings that were likely painted from a live or dead specimen, reveal a propensity for two-dimensionality. This paper examines some of these drawings and albums in Aldrovandi’s collection in comparison with similar works in the Medici collection in Florence, in Rudolph II’s collection in Prague and in the drawings of Jacques de Gheyn II in the Netherlands and questions both the role of naturalism and the function of albums for documenting and coming to terms with foreignness.
Henrique Leitão (University of Lisbon)
Travelling at sea and changing knowledge: Long-range sea voyages and the shaping of scientific knowledge in the sixteenth century
Every sixteenth century traveler (soldier, sailor, merchant, missionary, officer of the Crown, or just the plain adventurer) entering a ship in Lisbon (or Seville) ready to set sail to “the Indies” entered not only an extremely harsh and even brutal world but also a place where, from an intellectual point of view, a very peculiar type of technical and scientific culture prevailed. During the long months (sometimes over one year) it took to reach final destination this traveler would be exposed to a type of “maritime culture” whose content, justification, accepted authorities, modes of transmission, etc. differed drastically from any training or education he could possibly have had before. A peculiar blend of practical skills coupled with rough theoretical notions, a mistrust of bookish authorities based on the direct experience of new facts, a predisposition to accept the novel in nature, an intense sense of utility attached to all technical procedures, a serious attention to precision and the elimination of errors in observations, a perhaps vague but unmistakable idea that mathematics provides certainty in geographical matters and even in the description of natural phenomena, etc. This was a highly syncretic body of expertise and mental attitudes that had grown in Iberia via a process of accumulation of knowledge along several decades. Its influence in the shaping of early modern contacts between Europe and Asia should not be underestimated and is worth examining in more detail.
Diogo Ramada Curto (Universidade Nova de Lisboa)
A composite typology of imperial knowledge
How European empires used different forms of knowledge to impose their own power and authority? An answer to this question should distinguish between forms of knowledge associated with the dynamic of intellectual disciplines in Europe, and others with a more direct impact in the organization of empires. An inventory of the former should start by political theology and legal discourses, followed by different types of history (religious, political and natural), disciplines dealing with spatial matters (from astrology to cartography), and the physical body. However, the other vast range of discourses interfering practically with the making of imperial processes suggests a different composite typology. This was formed by descriptions of ceremonies shaped by an antiquarian style (sometimes articulated with genealogy) usable in diplomatic relations with princely courts as well as in comparing religions. Secondly, another type of knowledge was the result of concrete technologies of power in areas such as the organization of justice, military matters, and the establishment of fiscal machineries of surplus extraction. In these concrete domains colonial states depended heavily on gathering local information through collaborators, and they also showed an ability to transfer technologies. A political culture of counsel, political arithmetic and later on political economy were related with the same type of technological powers. A last item of the same composite typology corresponds to the making of individual careers offered by imperial and colonial enterprises. In this case, individual actions were associated with an ability to tell life stories, creating one of the most generalized forms of autobiography. The paper will concentrate on Iberian empires (1450-1700) –with their sources in Latin, Castilian, Portuguese and Italian– making a strong point about the centrality of the referred composite typology of imperial knowledge, in comparison to ethnographic and presumed scientific discourses (mostly travel accounts).
José Ramón Marcaida (Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas, Madrid)
New World transfers: Francisco Hernández in the works of Juan Eusebio Nieremberg
The aim of this paper is to explore the complexities surrounding the preservation and transmission of natural and medical knowledge in seventeenth-century Spain, through the analysis of several features, both textual and visual, in the work of Juan Eusebio Nieremberg (1595-1658). Mainly known for his religious writings, such as the extensively edited and translated On the difference between the temporal and eternal (Madrid, 1640), and regarded as one of the most eloquent exponents of the Spanish Counter-Reformist thought, Nieremberg was also the first professor of natural history at the Reales Estudios of the Jesuit Colegio Imperial of Madrid, and the author of several books on natural knowledge, the most important being his Historia naturae, maxime peregrinae (Antwerp, 1635).
This paper focuses on Nieremberg's treatment of a particularly relevant source for his lectures and treatises on natural history: the materials gathered by the Spanish physician Francisco Hernández during his expedition to New Spain in the 1570s. Comprising several volumes of texts as well as thousands of illustrations, these materials remained mostly unpublished, except for a few editing efforts, including the well-known edition, the so-called Mexican Treasury (Rome, 1651), by the Accademia dei Lincei.
As it will be argued, Nieremberg's work not only offers a suggestive chance to enlarge and enrich the history of the reception and dissemination of these texts and illustrations; it also provides a unique opportunity to evaluate the appreciation of natural and medical knowledge in Spain during the first half of the seventeenth century.
Dániel Margócsy (Hunter College – City University of New York)
Climates, Race And Migration In the Early Modern World: The Case Of The Horse
In recent years, historians have devoted a substantial amount of research to studying how early modern scholars theorized about the interaction of the latitudinal variation of climates and human migration, focusing especially on the question how the constitution and health of European settlers might have deteriorated in the colonies. A focus on the global circulation of horses reveals a less well-known facet of theories of climate and of scientific racism. Horses were the global migrant par excellence of the early modern colonial world. Extinct in America, the species was re-introduced to America by the Spanish conquistadors. Soon after their arrival at the Cape of Good Hope in the 1650s, the Dutch turned to importing horses from Java to cater for their needs. Spanish jennets and Neapolitan and Barb stallions were sought after by the nobility all over Europe. During his stay in Prague, even the alchemist John Dee found time to send and sell Hungarian horses to aristocrats in England. As in the case of humans, natural historians, hippological authors and colonizers argued that the temperament and constitution of horses were determined by latitude. Yet these authors suggested a new, pragmatic solution towards the adaptation of migrants to new climes. While early modern tracts on human colonization aimed at preserving a pure, age-old European identity in a new environment, hippological authors aimed at creating new breeds that could outperform their ancestors in a new environment. The English thoroughbred, the race so crucial to the sporting identity of the British Empire, was based on the mating of English mares with imported Arabian stallions. A focus on horses thus reveals that the concept of race was not necessarily static in the early modern period: theorists and practitioners both advocated and contributed to the forging of new equine identities by miscegenation.
Stephen McDowall (University of Warwick)
Two English Visions of Late-Ming China, 1598-1625
Europeans first established a maritime connection with Ming China early in the sixteenth century, and by the end of that century several accounts existed in European languages to add substance to the amazing tales of Marco Polo and the fictions of Sir John Mandeville. Some of this information was brought together and made available to English readers of the early-seventeenth century in the second and enlarged edition of Richard Hakluyt’s (?1552-1616) The Principall Navigations, published in three volumes between 1598 and 1600, and later in the adaptation and enlargement of Hakluyt’s work by Samuel Purchas (?1575-1626), published as Hakluytus Posthumus (Purchas his Pilgrimes) in 1625.
This paper examines the portrayal of China and its material culture by these two near-contemporaries, arguing that their circulation of ostensibly-similar compilations of travel accounts in fact created two radically distinct visions of late-Ming China for early-seventeenth century English readers. Where Hakluyt sought to place China within an emerging discourse of engagement and trade relations, it was Purchas’ consciously exotic depiction that found a wider audience, and ultimately ensured his immortality as the inspiration for Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s (1772-1834) poem ‘Kubla Khan’ (1797).
Dr Simon Mills (Council for British Research in the Levant)
The Chaplains to the English Levant Company at Aleppo (1625-1695): Mapping the Geography and Antiquities of Syria in Seventeenth-Century England
The English Levant Company was chartered under Queen Elizabeth I in 1581 to trade in the lands of the Ottoman Empire. It soon set up trading centres, or ‘factories’, at Aleppo, Constantinople, and Smyrna. As these factories became more established the company provided funds for a chaplain, which offered the opportunity for a Church of England clergyman to travel to the Levant in order to minister to the expatriate communities of merchants. Although the chaplain was peripheral to the workings of the company itself, the role would have profound implications for the development of early modern knowledge of the near Eastern world. The figures elected to the chaplaincy were nearly all proficient scholars who had been trained in the classical languages, Hebrew, and theology at the English universities. In some cases they were well connected with the major intellectual figures of their age, including Boyle, Newton, and Locke. Many of them used the opportunity of their stay in the East to learn oriental languages, to travel, to collect manuscripts, and to record as much information as possible relating to the antiquities, geography, flora, and fauna of the Levant.
In this paper, I shall examine how the chaplains at Aleppo contributed to European knowledge of the geography and antiquities of Syria, focusing particularly on their connections with the Royal Society. The first part of the paper will explore some of the correspondence sent back by the early chaplains Charles Robson, Edward Pococke, and Robert Huntington, and the ways in which the accounts of the Levant contained in these letters were used by English scholars. I shall then move on to examine the chaplain William Halifax’s 1691 visit to the ruins of the ancient city of Palmyra, the exact location of which had been largely unknown in the West since its fall to the Arabs in 634 AD. In 1695 three descriptions of the site were printed in the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society; these accounts had important consequences for early modern geography of the region and marked the beginning of the fascination with the site which continues to this day.
Limor Mintz-Manor (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem)
Knowledge, Identity and the Jewish Discourse on the New World
The paper will examine various representations of America in Jewish literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and its contribution to the construction of knowledge and identity of Jewish societies of western Europe, mainly in Italy and the Netherlands. As part of the larger European society, Jewish scholars participated in the discourse about the new scientific discoveries during the early modern period and studied Astronomy, Natural History, Geography as well as Ethnography. These scholars composed, mainly in Hebrew, original writings and adaptations of European works for the Jewish audience that sought to bring together the medieval and early modern scientific knowledge with traditional Jewish learning.
Another intriguing feature of the Jewish discourse concerning the New World is the incorporation of the Jews into the Christians-Amerindians power structure. Most of the European accounts described, in general, a bipolar relationship of "civilized" Christians versus the "barbarian" Amerindians but in some Jewish accounts these relations became triangular, consisting of Jews, Christians and Amerindians. In this new setting, the traditional Otherness of the Jews corresponded to the new Others of Europe, the Amerindians. I will argue, accordingly, that some Jewish scholars situated their own group in-between the Christians and the Amerindians and could thus identify as "whites" and "civilized" and at the same time alien and subaltern. This also enabled them, for example, to criticize the colonial forces, to respect the indigenous cultures and at times to identify with the suffers of the indigenous people.
All in all, the paper will seek to integrate the Jewish perspectives into the general discourse
about the European explorations and travels. By focusing on various manuscripts and printed books it will present the ways in which Jewish society adapted and modified the emerging knowledge about America and its indigenous people and will highlight the unique "mental lenses" through which Jews perceived the new discoveries and integrated them into their worldview.
Iris Montero Sobrevilla (University of Cambridge)
Of fever, syphilis and epilepsy: exploring the medicinal hummingbird