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Hidde Slotboom MA

PhD candidate


The Dark Middle Ages: Language of Vice in Histories of Science, 1700–1900

Leiden University
Project: Scholarly Vices: A Longue Durée History
Promotor(es): Prof. Herman Paul
Aanstelling: vanaf september 2019

In the 18th and 19th century, many historians of science perceived the Middle Ages as a Dark Age for science. The Victorian scientist and historian William Whewell, for example, described the Middle Ages as a “Stationary Period in Science”, in which hardly any scientific discoveries were made. Such negative perceptions of medieval science are the topic of my PhD research. I analyse them from the perspective of scholarly vices, aiming to chart the spread of these ideas and to understand their prevalence. I do so by tracing the development of these ideas from 18th-century histories of science, dictionaries of arts and science, and historia literaria to 19th-century histories of science. Central to my research is the hypothesis that the success of negative perceptions of medieval science to a large extent depended on the anecdotes, commonplaces, and stereotypes that often accompanied them.