Lecture prof. Harold J. Cook: The Co-Production of Sciences and Economies

Lecture Prof. Cook (Brown University)

Date: 13 December 2012
Time: 10am-12am
Venue: The Hague, Royal Library, ‘zaal B/C’
Chair: dr. Michiel van Groesen (UvA)
Open to: all


Thursday December 13, Harold J. Cook, professor of History at Brown University and renowned historian of early modern science, will give a lecture on the relationship between science and economy in the early modern period. This lecture is open to all. The lecture will be  followed by a general discussion and Q&A-session with all participants, chaired by Michiel van Groesen (UvA). The readings are listed below.


10:00  Welcome by Dr van Groesen

10:15   Keynote Prof. Cook: The Co-Production of Sciences and Economies

One of the most common arguments about science is that it leads to economic development; it is also commonly argued that the rise of science was a critical factor in the rise of the modern economy. The morning keynote and discussion will explore that theme from the viewpoint of the history of northwestern Europe in the early modern period, arguing that rather than either “economy” or “science” producing the other, they were co-produced (to use a phrase associated with Sheila Jasanoff). In doing so, it steps around many current invocations of the causal power of “culture” to explore more materialistic causes, particularly by examining how recent work in economic history might have much to offer those interested in such processes. It takes the position that institutional forms of organization employed by the urban elite to manage their affairs came to place a high value on descriptive matters of fact, which became the chief matters of exchange in their efforts toward both material betterment and reliable knowledge. In giving pride of place to matters of fact in their knowledge systems, it also became possible for urban leaders to imagine a universal form of knowledge, which we often call science. While early modern science is not the same as modern science, the found relationships between it and economy can offer productive avenues for examining sciences and economies in other places and periods. To do so, however, requires that the history of science be brought into a closer relationship with the history of medicine and technology, as well as with economic history, than was common in the late 20th century.

11:00   Questions & discussion


This lecture is part of a master class, hosted by Prof. Cook. This master class will take place in the afternoon and is exclusively for PhD researchers and advanced research-master students. More information about this master class here. Separate registration is required.


While familiarity with the material below is not obligatory for attending the morning lecture, it would be appreciated. Participants of the master class are expected to be familiar with all material.

  • Introduction to: How Well Do Facts Travel?: The Dissemination of Reliable Knowledge. Ed. Peter Howlett and Mary S Morgan. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Zhang, Qiong. ‘Demystifying Qi: The Politics of Cultural Translation and Interpretation in the Early Jesuit Mission to China’. In Tokens of Exchange: The Problem of Translation in Global Circulations, edited by Lydia H. Liu, 74-106. Durham: Duke University Press, 1999.
  • Introduction to: Market Devices. Ed. Michel Callon, Yuval Millo, and Fabian Muniesa. Malden, MA; Oxford: Blackwell Pub./The Sociological Review, 2007.
  • Epstein, Stephan R. ‘Craft Guilds, Apprenticeship, and Technical Change in Pre-industrial Europe’. Journal of Economic History 58 (1998): 684-713.

Lecture and master class are organized in cooperation with the Royal Library in The Hague as part of professor Harold J. Cook’s KB fellowship in the fall of 2012.