Home » Departments and Centres » History and Civilization » Research & Teaching » Seminars » 2017-2018 2nd term » Contesting Globalisms: a comparative view in history of science

Contesting Globalisms: a Comparative View in History of Science

Research Seminar

Organised by Prof Stéphane Van Damme, Dr Blake Smith and Dr Leonardo Ariel Carrio Cataldi 
(Max Weber Fellows)
Registration code: HEC-RS-CONGL-17
Block seminar: 12 and 16 March 2018 (Sala degli Stemmi) and 19 March 2018 (Sala del Consiglio) 

Admin. Assistant: Miriam Curci


Seminar description

Over the last fifteen years the history of the science of the modern era – and particularly of the 18th century – has taken a global turn, expanding the discipline’s horizon of interests. While this turn was initially manifested in a “science and empires” framework and the history of the globalisation of the scientific revolution, an increasing degree of sophistication led to a greater focus on local contexts, transimperial trajectories, connections and the local and transnational intermediaries involved in the mobility of science. Major globalisation projects became subject to close examination, from the catholicisation of the world to the emergence of the paradigm of trade and global pillage. Catholic expansionism led not only to a new reflection on missions and conversion, but promoted a new order of knowledge, like for instance catholic orientalism. Circulation itself ceased to be regarded as a neutral vehicle of transfer, but as the site of the transformation and translation of knowledge.

Meanwhile material aspects gained in importance, bringing greater complexity to our vision of collections, naturalia and exotica and their relationship to political economy and trade. Early Modern world is the global age of translation in a broad sense, multiplying 'trading zones' in terms of transfer from artisans to scientists, but also in terms of geography. The vocabulary of 'global circulation','encounters' and flows of knowledge has generated criticism among historians of science who contest the vision of "unity, uniformity and directionality" of global history (Warwick Anderson) and prefer more attention to stories of "conflict and resistance or blockages" (Fa-Ti Fan).

Anti- or alter globalization movements encourage also historians to historicize or to explore deeper the anti-globalist (or alter-globalist) narrative which has been challenged recently by different historiographical shifts. Attention to criticism of early modern empire and globalization is hardly new. An older Marxist tradition insisted on the central role of imperialism in the 1970s, after the decolonisation phase. Behind the Enlightenment, they aimed at shedding light on a set of criticisms: criticism of travels associated with intellectual libertinism, criticism of religious expansion, anti-slavery movement of the second half of the eighteenth century, criticism of plantation economy just to quote a few. In the last decade, these issues came back in slight different ways while global history started to gain recognition. However moving from anti-imperalism to anti-globalization is not neutral and needs further elaboration, and this research seminar would like to open a discussion about the counter-narratives.



12 March 2018 - Problems and Methods: Shift in Historiographical Debates (10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00, Sala degli Stemmi)

Session 1: Disenchanting Global Sciences: Challenging Big Narratives and Genealogy

  • David Bell, 'Questioning the Global Turn, the case of the French Revolution", French Historical Studies, Vol. 37, n.1 (Winter 2014), pp. 1-24
  • Fa Ti Fan, 'The Global Turn in History of Science', East Asian Science, Technology and Society, (2012), 6, pp. 249-258.
  • Sujit Sivasundaram, 'Sciences and the Global: On Methods, Questions, and Theory', Isis, 101, no. 1 (2010), pp. 146-58.
  • Roberts (Lissa), 'Exploring global history through the lens of history of Chemistry".
  • Renn (Jürgen), "The History of Science and the Globalization of Knowledge", in T. Arabatzis et al. (eds.), Relocating the History of Science (Boston: Boston Studies in the Philosophy and History of Science, 2015), pp. 241-252.
  • James MacClellan III and François Regourd, 'Colonial Machine: French Science and Colonization in the Old Regime', Osiris, Vol. 15 (2000), pp. 31-50.
  • Antonella Romano, 'The History Manifesto, History of Science and Big narratives: Some Pending Questions", Isis, Vol. 107, Number 2, June 2016.
  • Carla Nappi, 'Paying Attention: Early Modern Science beyond Genealogy', Journal of Early Modern History, 21 (2017), pp. 459-470.
  • Jeremy Alderman, 'Is Global History still possible?
  • Bray (Francesca), "Only Connect: Comparative, National and Global History as Frameworks for the History of Science and Technology in Asia", East Asian Science, Technology and Society, 2012, 6: 233-241.
  • JB Shank, 'After the Scientific Revolution: Thinking Globally about the History of Early Modern Sciences', Journal of Early Modern History 21 (2017): 372-393.

Session 2: Beyond Public and Transparency: Skepticism, Criticisms and dissimulation

  • Jon R. Snyder, Dissimulation and the culture of secrecy, Berkeley, University of California Press, 2009, chapter 1 and conclusion
  • Jorge Canizares-Esguerra, 'On ignored Global Scientific Revolution', Journal of Early Modern History, 21 (2017), pp. 420-433.
  • Juan Pimentel and José Pardo-Tomas, 'And yet, we were modern. The paradoxes of Iberian science after the Grand Narratives', History of Science, 2017, vol. 55 (2), pp. 133-147.
  • Helga Nowotny, The cunning of Uncertainty, Cambridge, Polity Press, 2016, chapter 1
  • Natasha Lee, 'Planetary Perspective in Enlightenment Fiction and Science' in McDonald (Christie) and Rubin Suleiman (Susan) (eds.), French Global. A New Approach to Literary History (New York, Columbia University Press, 2010).
  • Marcel Detienne and Jean-Pierre Vernant, Les ruses de la l'intelligence. La métis des Grecs (Paris, 1974).

Session 3: Global Time and desynchronisation

Guest Speaker: Leonardo Carrio Cattaldi (Max Weber Fellow, EUI)

  • Robert K. Batchelor, London: the Selden Map and the making of a global city, 1549-1689, University of Chicago Press, 2014: introduction and chapter one, p. 1-63
  • Anthony Grafton, 'Dating History: The Renaissance and The Reformaiton of Chrnology', Daedalusn Vol. 132, n°2, Spring 2003, pp. 74-85.
  • Jan De Vries, 'The limits of globalization in the early modern world', The Economic History review, 63, 3 (2010), pp. 710-733.


16 March 2018 - Denouncing Global Politics and Religion (10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00, Sala degli Stemmi)

Session 4: Spaces - Geographies of Globalism: Placing the Globes

Guest Speaker: Martin Vailly

  • Simon Schaffer, 'Aesthetics of Universal Knowledge', in S. Schaffer, John Tresch and Pasquale Gagliardi (eds.), Aesthetics of Universal Knowledge, London, Palgrave MacMillan, 2017.
  • Ralph Kingston, 'Trading places: Accumulation as mediation in French ministry map depots, 1798-1810", History of Science, 2014, Vol. 52 (3), pp. 247-276.
  • Bruno Latour, "Onus Orbis Terrarum: About a Possible Shift in the Definition of Sovereignty", Millennium: Journal of Interbational Studies, 2016, Vol. 44 (3), pp. 305-320.

Session 5: Denouncing Despotism: Political Debates

  • Joan Pau Rubiès, 'Race, Climate and Civilization in the Works of François Bernier' in Ines Zupanov and Marie Fourcade (eds.), India and Enlightenment. Discourse, History, Knowledge, Paris, 2013, p. 53-78.
  • Stéphane Van Damme, 'Subversive Freedom: Libertine Anthropology and the Geography of Knowledge in Seventeenth-Century France', Early Modern French Studies, (2015), 37:2, pp. 108-125.
  • Blake Smith, 'Diplomacy and its Forms of Knowledge', in Ines Zupanov and Marie Fourcade (eds.), India and Enlightenment. Discourse, History, Knowledge, Paris, 2013, p. 209-227.

Session 6: Denouncing Political Economy of the Empire

Guest Speaker: Blake Smith (Max Weber Fellow, EUI)

  • Sankar Muthu, Enlightenment against Empire, Princeton University Press, 2003, Chapters 1 and 3 
  • Paul Cheney's Revolutionary Commerce. Globalization and the French Monarchy, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, 2010, Chapters 2 and 7
  • Blake Smith, 'Slavery and the Gournay Circle'

Session 7: Demeaning Counter-Catholic Order, Conversion, Impostors and Missionary Knowledge

  • Discussion of the book: Linda Gregerson and Susan Juster, Empires of God. Religious Encounters in the Early Modern Atlantic (2011)
  • Jorge Flores, 'Between Madrid and Ophir: Erédia, a Deceiful Discoverer?', in Dissimulation and deceit in Early Modern Europe, edited by Miriam Eliav-Feldon and Tamar Herzig, London, Palgrave, 2015, pp. 184-210.
  • Stefania Pastore, 'Doubt in Fifteenth-Century Iberia', in After Conversion. Iberia and the Emergence of Modernity (Brill, 2016), pp. 283-303.
  • Micah True, 'Messou the Great Restorer: Questioning Montagnais Religious Knowledge' in Micah True, Masters and Students. Jesuit Mission Ethnography in the Seventeenth-Century New France, Montreal, McGill University Press, 2015.


19 March - On Earth and Heavens (10:00-13:00 and 14:00-17:00, Sala del Consiglio)

Session 8: Damaging the Earth: Environmental Issues and Conservatism

  • Richard Grove, 'Protecting the Climate of Paradise'
  • Fredrik Albritton Jonsson, 'Rival ecologies of global commerce', American Historical Review, Vol. 115, n°5 (2010), pp. 1342-1363.
  • Vera S. Candiani, Reframing knowledge in colonization: Plebeians and municipalities in the environmental expertise of the Spanish Atlantic'

Session 9: Global Curiosity, Medicine and Material Cultures

  • Samir Boumedienne, Coloniser les savoirs du Nouveau-Monde, intro
  • Paula De Vos, 'Methodological Challenges involved in compiling the Nahua pharmacopeia', History of Science, 2017, Vol. 55-2, pp. 210-233.

Session 10: Pluralizing the Heavens: Astronomy and Metrology

  • Simon Schaffer : 'Oriental metrology and the Politics of Antiquity in Nineteenth-Century survey sciences'
  • Druv Raina, 'Betwixt Jesuit and Enlightenment Historiography"
  • Druv Raina, 'Becoming All things to All. French Jesuit Scientists and the Construction of the Antiquity of the Sciences of India'
  • Florence Hsia, 'Astronomy after the Deluge'
  • Michael Dobson, 'History of Empires, Histories of Knowledge'

Session 11: Global Antiquiarianism: Accumulation, Origins and Pasts

  • Partha Mitter, 'Eighteenth-Century Antiquarians and Erotic Gods', in Much Maligned Monsters, OUP, 2013.
  • Peter Miller, 'Not for Lumpers only', in Benjamin Anderson and Felipe Rojas (eds.), Antiquarianisms. Contact, Conflitc, Comparison, Oxbow Books, 2017.
  • Alfredo Gonzalez-Ruibal, 'The Virtues of Oblivion: Africa and the People without Antiquarianism', Benjamin Anderson and Felipe Rojas (eds.), Antiquarianisms. Contact, Conflitc, Comparison, Oxbow Books, 2017.
  • Maya Jasanoff, 'A World of Empires, and Empire of the World', in Edge of the Empire, New York, Knopf, 2005.

Page last updated on 25 January 2018