Travel, Science, and the Question of Observation: 1580-1800

Heyman Center for the Humanities Columbia University

Date & Time
18th October, 2013 @ 09:15:00

Travel, Science, and the Question of Observation: 1580-1800

In the early modern period, the emergence of travel as a means of information gathering on natural history, demography, government, and religion was accompanied by the use of questionnaires to orient observation. This conference investigates the development of techniques of information gathering of this kind and the networks on which they relied. Papers address the integral role of travel in the process of scientific exchange as well as to the ways that information itself traveled in British, French, Spanish, and Swedish contexts.

The conference is supported by generous funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation ( and by the Heyman Center for the Humanities at Columbia University, with the assistance of the Moore Institute for the Humanities and Social Studies, National University of Ireland, Galway. The “Texts, Contexts, Culture” project is funded under the Higher Education Authority, under PRTLI4.

International conference

Heyman Center for the Humanities

Columbia University

October 18-19, 2013

Friday October 18

Second Floor Common Room, Heyman Center,

Columbia University

9.15 Registration and Welcome (Daniel Carey & Eileen Gillooly)

Session 1: Home and abroad in British questionnaires

Chair: Eileen Gillooly (Columbia University)

Elizabeth Yale (Western Carolina University)

Preparing the ground: topographical query lists and the formation of “Britain” as an object of scientific study in the seventeenth century

Asheesh Siddique (Columbia University)

Questionnaires, paperwork, and the problem of governance in the late eighteenth-century British Atlantic Enlightenment

11.00-11.30 Coffee break

11.30 Session 2: Techniques of inquiry in the 17th century

Chair: Alan Stewart (Columbia University)

Daniel Carey (National University of Ireland, Galway)

John Locke’s anthropology of religion – questions and answers

Carl Wennerlind (Barnard College)

Nature’s secrets revealed: Urban Hiärne’s questionnaire and the restoration of Atlantis

1.00 Lunch

2.00 Session 3: Enlightenment agendas

Chair: Dániel Margócsy (Hunter College, CUNY)

Nicholas Dew (McGill University)

“A Modell to regulate your Travels by”: from wish list to expedition in the early Enlightenment

Matthew Jones (Columbia University)

Re-inventing the (calculating) wheel: imitation, emulation and nescience in the Enlightenment

3.30-4.00 Coffee break

4.00 Session 4: The New World as an object of study

Chair: Martin J. Burke (CUNY)

Ida Federica Pugliese (Marie Curie Fellow, NUI Galway)

An Inquiry into the 13 Colonies: Barbé-Marbois’s queries and French commercial strategy during the American War of Independence

Cameron Strang (Penick Scholar, Smithsonian Institution)

Indian vocabularies and un-disciplining knowledge in the early United States

Saturday October 19

501 Schermerhorn Hall, Columbia University

9.15 Session 5: Travel, observation and population

Chair: Lynn Festa (Rutgers University)

Ted McCormick (Concordia University)

Observations that traveled: Graunt’s Observations and the uses of quantification in Cotton Mather’s New England

Joyce Chaplin (Harvard University)

T.R. Malthus, travel literature, and the world’s populations

10.45-11.15 Coffee break

11.15 Session 6: Early modern information networks

Chair: Maria Portuondo (Johns Hopkins University)

Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas at Austin)

Early modern networks and contingency: Jesuits, souls, geopolitics, and research projects

Paula Findlen (Stanford University)

How information travels: lessons from the early modern republic of letters

Ann Blair (Harvard University), Commentary

1.00 Lunch