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WHERE IS AMERICA IN THE REPUBLIC OF LETTERS?*

  • CAROLINE WINTERER (a1)
  • DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/S1479244312000212
  • Published online: 01 November 2012
Abstract

Where is America in the republic of letters? This question has formed in my mind over the last four years as I have collaborated on a new project based at Stanford University called Mapping the Republic of Letters. The project aims to enrich our understanding of the intellectual networks of major and minor figures in the republic of letters, the international world of learning that spanned the centuries roughly from 1400 to 1800. By creating visual images based on large digitized data sets, we hope to reveal the hidden structures and conditions that nourished the growth of the republic of letters in the early modern era and the causes of its transformation in the nineteenth century. This task has only recently become feasible with the digitization of the correspondences of major intellectuals such as Benjamin Franklin, John Locke, Athanasius Kircher, and Voltaire, and of libraries, cabinets of artifacts, and Grand Tour itineraries.

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Thanks to Charles Capper, Michael O'Brien, Mark Peterson, and James Turner for their incisive comments on earlier versions of this essay. I am also grateful to my colleagues on the Mapping the Republic of Letters project at Stanford University for many productive conversations: Giovanna Ceserani, Nicole Coleman, Dan Edelstein, and Paula Findlen. My graduate students Julia Mansfield, Claire Rydell, and Scott Spillman have also worked tremendously hard on the project, and I remain very appreciative of their labors. Thanks to Giorgio Caviglia of DensityDesign Research Lab in Milan, Italy, for producing the maps of Franklin's and Voltaire's correspondence.

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This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

David Lundberg and Henry F. May, “The Enlightened Reader in America,” American Quarterly 28 (1976), 262–93

Robert Mayhew, “British Geography's Republic of Letters: Mapping an Imagined Community, 1600–1800,” Journal of the History of Ideas 65 (April 2004), 251–76

Liam Brockey, Journey to the East: The Jesuit Mission to China, 1579–1724 (Cambridge, MA, 2007)

Miles Ogborn, Indian Ink: Script and Print in the Making of the English East India Company (Chicago, 2007)

Florence Hsia, Sojourners in a Strange Land: Jesuits and Their Scientific Missions in Late Imperial China (Chicago, 2009)

Norman Fiering, “The Transatlantic Republic of Letters: A Note on the Circulation of Learned Periodicals to Early Eighteenth-Century America,” William and Mary Quarterly, 3d series 33 (Oct. 1976), 642–60

Stuart Feld, “In the Latest London Manner,” Metropolitan Museum of Art Bulletin 21 (May 1963), 308

Neil Safier, Measuring the New World: Enlightenment Science and South America (Chicago, 2008)

Steven Harris, “Confession-Building, Long-Distance Networks and the Organization of Jesuit Science,” Early Science and Medicine 1 (Oct. 1996), 287318

Owen Stanwood, “The Protestant Moment: Antipopery, the Revolution of 1688–1689, and the Making of an Anglo-American Empire,” Journal of British Studies 46 (July 2007), 481508, esp. 485

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Modern Intellectual History
  • ISSN: 1479-2443
  • EISSN: 1479-2451
  • URL: /core/journals/modern-intellectual-history
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