Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age

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9780300117967: Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age

"Ever since the seventeenth century, the startling Dutch achievement in arts and economy has obsessed foreign observers: how to explain and learn from this seemingly miraculous rise to world power of a small nation lacking any obvious natural resources? In this powerfully argued and carefully organised new book, Hal Cook makes the Dutch Golden Age somewhat less miraculous but much more fascinating. By charting the networks and values embodied in what he calls its information economy, Cook guides us along the remarkable paths of trade and intelligence which dominated Dutch society's successes and ambitions. Busy merchants and ambitious scholars scoured their expansive world for new goods, new facts and thus new opportunities for trade and commerce. The results were visible in the shops, libraries, gardens and colleges of the new Republic. Their orientation towards reliable information, mobile credit and solid commodities affected not only global trade but also world-wide knowledge systems. With lucid detail and appealing illustration, Cook introduces key figures in the Dutch information economy: pharmacists and botanists, anatomists and mariners. Familiar protagonists of the new sciences of early modern Europe, including Rene Descartes and Hermann Boerhaave, are here properly put back into the milieux that mattered to their schemes for human welfare and the improvement of knowledge. The book's stage is set wide, from the Dutch bases in east Asia, southern Africa and the Americas to the wharves, theatres and markets of the great Netherlands cities. By insisting with such authority on the mutual relationship between global commerce and worldly knowledge, Cook opens a quite new perspective on the roots of the modern system of science and capital."--Simon Schaffer, University of Cambridge

--Simon Schaffer


"In this ground-breaking book, Professor Cook investigates the way in which the unprecedented growth in global knowledge in the Netherlands in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries accompanied, and reflected the rapid expansion of the Dutch global commercial empire. Meticulously tracking the relations between these two areas of activity, Cook argues vividly and convincingly that in the case of medicine, commerce and the rise of a recognisable modern practice went hand in hand, and that, in general, across Europe, a new global economy marked the beginnings of science as we know it. A book of real importance for all cultural historians and historians of science of the early modern period."--Lisa Jardine, Director of the Centre for Editing Lives and Letters, and Centenary Professor of Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary, University of London [You are welcome to edit my text]--Lisa Jardine

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