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Imperial Unknowns
The French and British in the Mediterranean, 1650–1750


  • Date Published: November 2018
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9781316617502

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About the Authors
  • In this major study, the history of the French and British trading empires in the early modern Mediterranean is used as a setting to test a new approach to the history of ignorance: how can we understand the very act of ignoring - in political, economic, religious, cultural and scientific communication - as a fundamental trigger that sets knowledge in motion? Zwierlein explores whether the Scientific Revolution between 1650 and 1750 can be understood as just one of what were in fact many simultaneous epistemic movements and considers the role of the European empires in this phenomenon. Deconstructing central categories like the mercantilist 'national', the exchange of 'confessions' between Western and Eastern Christians and the bridging of cultural gaps between European and Ottoman subjects, Zwierlein argues that understanding what was not known by historical agents can be just as important as the history of knowledge itself.

    Reviews & endorsements

    'Imperial Unknowns is a thoroughly fascinating book. Zwierlein has succeeded in linking the history of mercantilism, religion, historical knowledge and science in the Mediterranean, and he has demonstrated convincingly that a study of what historical actors did not know is as important as the study of what they did know. … In addition, Imperial Unknowns represents an important contribution to Mediterranean historiography.' Dzavid Dzanic, Mediterranean Historical Review

    'Cornel Zwierlein's Imperial Unknowns is the first detailed study of British-French relations in the Mediterranean basin. … The book is lucid and carefully referenced: it is magisterial in its breadth. … it remains essential reading for every student of the early modern Mediterranean.' Nabil Matar, American Historical Review

    'This book is a highly ambitious, complex, challenging, and genuine attempt at engaging with interdisciplinary developments within the investigation of the 'history of ignorance(s) in late medieval and early modern times'.' Maria Fusaro, German Historical Institute London Bulletin

    'The approach to take the Mediterranean space as the starting point for a comparative French-British history of knowledge has many merits without doubt, the amount of findings is impressive.' Christian Windler, translated from Historische Zeitschrift

    'This study demonstrates in an impressive way and with a stupendous [or amazing] erudition [or scholarship] that the question for forms of ignorance and how men and women of the past were coping with the borders of their knowledge can lead to new research questions.' Mark Häberlein, translated from Zeitschrift für Historische Forschung

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2018
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9781316617502
    • length: 414 pages
    • dimensions: 230 x 153 x 25 mm
    • weight: 0.65kg
    • contains: 6 b/w illus.
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Politics and economy: nationalizing economics
    2. Religion: empires ignoring, learning, forgetting religions
    3. History: how to cope with unconscious ignorance
    4. Science: Mediterranean empires and scientific unknowns

  • Author

    Cornel Zwierlein, Bochum University, Germany
    Cornel Zwierlein is a Professor in the Department of History at Bochum University, Germany. He completed his Ph.D. in 2003 at the University of Munich. From 2013 to 2015 he was a Fellow at Harvard University's History Department (Henkel/EU) and in 2014 was a Fellow at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH) at the University of Cambridge.

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