Empires of Knowledge charts the emergence of different kinds of scientific networks – local and long-distance, informal and institutional, religious and secular – as one of the important phenomena of the early modern world. It seeks to answer questions about what role these networks played in making knowledge, how information traveled, how it was transformed by travel, and who the brokers of this world were.

Bringing together an international group of historians of science and medicine, this book looks at the changing relationship between knowledge and community in the early modern period through case studies connecting Europe, Asia, the Ottoman Empire, and the Americas. It explores a landscape of understanding (and misunderstanding) nature through examinations of well-known intelligencers such as overseas missions, trading companies, and empires while incorporating more recent scholarship on the many less prominent go-betweens, such as translators and local experts, which made these networks of knowledge vibrant and truly global institutions.

Empires of Knowledge is the perfect introduction to the global history of early modern science and medicine.

chapter |22 pages

Introduction – Early modern scientific networks

Knowledge and community in a globalizing world, 1500–1800
ByPaula Findlen

part I|2 pages

Brokers of knowledge

chapter 2|49 pages

How information travels

Jesuit networks, scientific knowledge, and the early modern Republic of Letters, 1540–1640
ByPaula Findlen

chapter 3|20 pages

Deciphering the Ignatian Tree

The Catholic horoscope of the Society of Jesus
ByMarcelo Aranda

chapter 4|33 pages

The early modern information factory

How Samuel Hartlib turned correspondence into knowledge
ByCarol Pal

part II|2 pages

Configuring scientific networks

chapter 5|20 pages

Letters and questionnaires

The correspondence of Henry Oldenburg and the early Royal Society of London’s Inquiries for Natural History
ByIordan Avramov

chapter 6|24 pages

Ingenuous investigators

Antonio Vallisneri’s regional network and the making of natural knowledge in eighteenth-century Italy
ByIvano Dal Prete

chapter 7|18 pages

Corresponding in war and peace

The challenge of rebooting Anglo-French scientific relations during the Peace of Amiens
ByElise Lipkowitz

part III|2 pages

How knowledge travels

chapter 8|21 pages

Giant bones and the Taunton Stone

American antiquities, world history, and the Protestant International
ByLydia Barnett

chapter 9|23 pages

The tarot of Yu the Great

The search for civilization’s origins between France and China in the Age of Enlightenment
ByAlexander Statman

chapter 10|25 pages

Spaces of circulation and empires of knowledge

Ethnolinguistics and cartography in early colonial India
ByKapil Raj

part IV|2 pages

The local and the global

chapter 11|20 pages

Recentering centers of calculation

Reconfiguring knowledge networks within global empires of trade
ByMatthew Sargent

chapter 12|25 pages

The Atlantic World medical complex

ByLonda Schiebinger

chapter 13|22 pages

Semedo’s sixteen secrets

Tracing pharmaceutical networks in the Portuguese tropics
ByBenjamin Breen

part |2 pages


chapter 14|6 pages

Following ghosts

Skinning science in early modern Eurasia
ByCarla Nappi

chapter 15|5 pages

Conceptualizing knowledge networks

Agents and patterns of “flow”
ByRachel Midura

chapter 16|8 pages


ByHarold J. Cook