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Mapping science's imagined community: geography as a Republic of Letters, 1600–1800


This paper extends discussions of the sociology of the early modern scientific community by paying particular attention to the geography of that community. The paper approaches the issue in terms of the scientific community's self image as a Republic of Letters. Detailed analysis of patterns of citation in two British geography books is used to map the ‘imagined community’ of geographers from the late Renaissance to the age of Enlightenment. What were the geographical origins of authors cited in geography books and how did this change over time? To what extent was scholarship from other cultural arenas integrated into European geography? Such an analysis draws on and interrogates recent work in the history of science and in the history of scholarship more broadly, work which has made important contributions to our understanding of the historical geography of scholarly communities in early modern Europe.

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I would like to thank Anthony Milton and Charles Withers for valuable comments and information, and the audience at the British Society for the History of Science conference of 2003 for their response to an oral version of this paper. The readers of the paper for the BJHS provoked important revisions. Finally, enormous thanks to Simon Naylor both for the initial invitation to produce this paper and for his kindly help in seeing this essay through the refereeing process.
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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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