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De-centring the ‘big picture’: The Origins of Modern Science and the modern origins of science

  • Andrew Cunningham and Perry Williams (a1)

Like it or not, a big picture of the history of science is something which we cannot avoid. Big pictures are, of course, thoroughly out of fashion at the moment; those committed to specialist research find them simplistic and insufficiently complex and nuanced, while postmodernists regard them as simply impossible. But however specialist we may be in our research, however scornful of the immaturity of grand narratives, it is not so easy to escape from dependence – acknowledged or not – on a big picture. When we define our research as part of the history of science, we implicitly invoke a big picture of that history to give identity and meaning to our specialism. When we teach the history of science, even if we do not present a big picture explicitly, our students already have a big picture of that history which they bring to our classes and into which they fit whatever we say, no matter how many complications and refinements and contradictions we put before them – unless we offer them an alternative big picture.

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The British Journal for the History of Science
  • ISSN: 0007-0874
  • EISSN: 1474-001X
  • URL: /core/journals/british-journal-for-the-history-of-science
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