Happiness as a Colonial Science: new publication

In the wake of the Royal Society (London, 1660) and the Académie Royale (Paris, 1666), a slew of scientific societies formed in the later seventeenth-century European world, nodes in an expanding network of institutions devoted to experimental science, natural history, and kindred sorts of philosophical activity. A short-lived member of this scientific community was the … Continue reading Happiness as a Colonial Science: new publication

New publication: Alchemical transmutation and economic value in the seventeenth century

Self-promotion alert! (But if I don't tell you, who will?) I'm happy to say that a piece I wrote on two seventeenth-century scientific projectors, Gabriel Plattes (c.1600-44) and William Petty (1623-87), has at long last come out as a chapter in the large volume shown at left. My contribution looks at how Plattes and Petty … Continue reading New publication: Alchemical transmutation and economic value in the seventeenth century

Hobgoblins: fear and politics in the 17th and 21st centuries

Like our own, the political culture of seventeenth-century England was shaped in no small part by its constituents' fears; it was defined, as academics might say, by its Others, its excluded, resented, suspected, oppressed. In fact, it has been argued at least since Winthrop Jordan's massive and still worthwhile study White over Black that the very same racist … Continue reading Hobgoblins: fear and politics in the 17th and 21st centuries

Seven on your side: Loss, mobility, and practical astrology in seventeenth-century London

I am not ignorant that many have written against the science I profess, But such is my candid equanimity, that I think they inveighed against the abuse rather then the true use, of so ancient, so rare, so often verified a learning, which for its practical part may challenge any. So wrote Dr. Thomas Clayton (1575-1647), … Continue reading Seven on your side: Loss, mobility, and practical astrology in seventeenth-century London

The Ambivalent Alchemist’s Guide to History: Or, Why Gabriel Plattes Matters

"But if you look at the history, modern chemistry only starts coming in to replace alchemy around the same time capitalism really gets going. Strange, eh? What do you make of that?" Webb nodded agreeably. "Maybe capitalism decided it didn't need the old magic anymore." An emphasis whose contempt was not meant to escape Merle's … Continue reading The Ambivalent Alchemist’s Guide to History: Or, Why Gabriel Plattes Matters

The Great Alchemist Bragadini

[Update: My post scratches the surface, but there's a much more thorough and detailed exploration of Bragadini's earlier career here, for anyone interested.] Like magic, astrology, and other endeavours now found in the "occult" section (it's in the back, just follow the patchouli scent), alchemy can be hard for non-occultists to take seriously. On the other hand, early modern alchemy has … Continue reading The Great Alchemist Bragadini

Return to Penis Island: Or, the surprising trajectories of early modern population thought (Part 1)

Henry Neville (1620-94) was a republican political thinker in an era of civil war, regicide, constitutional experimentation, and resurgent monarchy; he translated Machiavelli’s works and traced republicanism’s heritage back to Moses. He is now better known, however, for a short work of faintly pornographic utopian fiction, The Isle of Pines. Couched as a Dutch sea-captain’s … Continue reading Return to Penis Island: Or, the surprising trajectories of early modern population thought (Part 1)