Friday, March 26, 2010

The Global Dimensions of European Knowledge, 1450-1700

Birkbeck, University of London, 24-5 June, 2011.

Confirmed speakers
KEYNOTE SPEAKERS: Professor Felipe Fernández-Armesto (Notre Dame),
Professor Pamela Smith (Columbia), Dr Joan-Pau Rubiés (London School of Economics)
PLENARY SPEAKERS: Professor Ricardo Padrón (Virginia), Professor Nicolás Wey-Gómez (Brown),
Dr Michiel van Groesen (Amsterdam)
AFTERWARD: Professor Peter Burke (Cambridge)

The period 1450-1700 saw the expansion of European seaborne reconnaissance of Africa, Asia, the
Americas and Oceania, which would lead to long-distance European empires in these regions. It also
witnessed changes in European knowledge-making practices that heralded what is often termed the
Scientific Revolution.
This conference will investigate the impact of European exploration and travel on the
structures, contents and sources of authority of European knowledge c. 1450-1700. It seeks to explore
connections between the making of knowledge and a broad range of intellectual, political, cultural,
religious and mercantile encounters between Europe and the wider world. It aims to bring together
scholars from different disciplines working on any aspect of European knowledge that included an
extra-European dimension. Forms of knowledge under consideration include ethnology, natural
history, botany, natural philosophy, geography, cartography, medicine and chronology.

Overarching questions
 In what ways was European knowledge re-shaped by exploration, imperialism and
 To what extent did indigenous knowledge systems influence European ‘science’?
 How did information about distant places circulate, and how was it changed by circulation?
 What was the nature of the exchanges of information and expertise between travellers,
missionaries, colonial administrators, indigenous informants, artisans, scholars, readers and
other groups from different countries? What challenges did these exchanges pose for
testimony and authority?
 What was the impact of colonial rivalries on the ways in which information was interpreted,
used and disseminated?

Possible panel themes might include:
first-hand testimony and authority; expectations and observations; circulation networks; artisans and
learned societies; cultural encounters and indigenous knowledge; gender and knowledge; empire and
knowledge; commerce and collecting; classification and the structures of knowledge; visual culture.

Proposals are welcomed for full panels and individual papers (25 mins). Individual submissions
should comprise a paper title, abstract (up to 300 words) and brief CV (max. one page) emphasizing
publications. For full panel proposals, please include an additional 300-word description of the panel
itself. Submissions should be sent to the conference organizer, Dr Surekha Davies (Birkbeck,
University of London) at, and to Prof. Ricardo Padrón (University of Virginia) at by 31 July 2010. A selection of papers will be published as an edited collection.


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