Friday, June 11, 2004


Dr. Margaret C. Jacob is perhaps the most preeminent scholar on the history of science, Enlightenment, Newton and the scientific culture of the 17th and 18th centuries (take a look at some of her books on or some of the other sites). I 'm not sure what her politics are, save that of a strong interest in freethought, but her writings follow in line with classical liberalism. She has now written/coauthored about two dozen books. If you are interested in the best research on enlightenment thought, you won’t go wrong by looking up her books. She has covered a lot of cultural issues in her writings, including analyzing the role of Masonic lodges in the formation of the scientific societies and the trickling down of scientific ideas both within the economy and society in general. You can find feminist-related discussions within her books, although I don’t recall any book of hers devoted exclusively to it.

Her UCLA webpage

Videocast/audiocast of her UCLA Faculty Research Lecture given 4/15/04, “Science and the Origins of Western Cosmopolitanism”. This lecture is based upon a book that she is currently working on. Also gives you a good grasp of Dr. Jacob's personality and her love of historical research. Looking forward to reading the book when it's published.

Jacob’s online essay, “The Clandestine Universe of the Early Eighteenth Century”

One of my favorite books of hers is The Radical Enlightenment: Pantheists, Freemasons and Republicans" (George Allen & Unwin, London and Boston, 1981; Italian translation, L'Illuminismo Radicale, published by Societa Editrice Il Mulino,1983. Second edition, revised, Temple Books, 2003). I have used this as well as her books on the Newtonians in various lectures. On both freethought history and libertarian history (there is frequently a merge of the two strains of thought), she has managed to bring in new insights and exciting possibilities for research. Her books include Newton and the Culture of Newtonianism, with Betty Jo Teeter Dobbs (Humanity Press, 1995), Living the Enlightenment: Freemasonry and Politics in Eighteenth Century Europe (1991, 350pp. Oxford University Press, also available from Temple Books), The Cultural Meaning of the Scientific Revolution (Alfred Knopf, New York, 1988, 273 pp), The Newtonians and the English Revolution, 1689-1720 (Cornell University Press and Harvester Press, Ltd., 1976, Italian translation, I Newtoniani e la rivoluzione inglese, 1689-I720, 1980 by Feltrinelli Editore, Milan. Reprinted, 1983; Japanese translation, 1990. Available from Gordon and Breach, "Classics in the History of Science").

One of the thoughts that came to mind as I was doing research for a talk on Methodist history (of all things) was a somewhat side-subject that became important in the question and answer period. This was the role of the masonic church in promoting independent thinking and making banned literature available (I had discussed mainly religious/political, but it included fiction as well). Jacob has several books touching upon this. One book (mentioned above)discusses the role that Masonic Lodges had in developing crucial experiments in self-government for its members, applied in various ways. Intriguing possibilities here that lead to the framing of American government.

I'm going to make a fairly long post on Pirate Revisionism soon, and I want to come back to one of the themes that Jacob uses. Both pirates and filibusters were part of a long-term smuggling tradition, trading in goods without the interference of government regulations and taxes. Marcus Rediker and others make the point that there was a connection between the European radical traditions and piracy. Were they the means for the transportation of banned writings as well as illegal goods? Certainly the flow of goods would indicate this. Was there more than just an economic convenience involved? We shall see.

Just a thought.
Just Ken


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