Subproject C: Knowledge Production and Communication

Supervisor: Jon Mathieu
Researcher Dunja Bulinsky

Recent research on the history of early modern science so far has largely focused on the networks created between actors all over Europe, often within the framework of a ‘Republic of Letters’. The long-distance transfer of ideas, publications and artefacts, and its significance for knowledge production could be clearly highlighted by this approach. Much less is known about the local networks and day-to-day interactions that were of similar – or even greater – importance for the production of knowledge and symbolic goods. These networks were located in the households of single scholars with numerous relations to persons next door, in the next street or the next quarter, be they family and kin, specialised artisans or merely neighbours. One may assume that the high productivity, observed in many early modern scholarly biographies, did not result from the work of isolated individuals, but was often based to a considerable degree on support systems in the surroundings of the principal actors. A good case in point is the biography of the well-known Swiss naturalist Johann Jakob Scheuchzer (1672–1733). Scheuchzer was a medical doctor and high-school teacher in Zurich, and a pioneer of many learned activities in the Swiss Confederation between the Baroque and Enlightenment. He corresponded with famous members of the Republic of Letters such as Isaak Newton and Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, but also with hundreds of other contemporaries, some of them living in peripheral mountain villages. Through his continuous correspondence and his learned and popular writings, which he produced year after year, he made research a systematic enterprise. The sheer number and length of his writings strongly suggest that Scheuchzer was running an ‘open house-workshop’ allowing for high output. The subproject deals with the following questions: Who exactly were the local contributors to Scheuchzer’s work, and what did they contribute? How did the local system function in and beyond his household? What changes in this social configuration can be observed during the period under study? Therefore the subproject will investigate this local knowledge producing-system from its beginnings in the 1690s to the mid-eighteenth century; that is, some time after the death of Scheuchzer. It takes up most of the key ideas of the overall project: the practice of early modern scholarship and its relationship to housekeeping, which includes aspects of communication, public–private interpenetration, gender issues and other topics.

Post-doc Researcher Sophie Ruppel

Early botany has been examined within the history of science for many years; however the focus has always been on discoveries and outstanding scholars. Widely spread practices of knowledge within this field have rarely been taken into account yet. This project seeks to shed light on processes of knowledge circulation between households and broader communication networks of urban societies in the 18th and early 19th centuries, dealing with early botanical knowledge and practices inside and outside houses and households. Bourgeois concepts and practices of plant use were noticeably different from those held by farmers or the nobility. While the rural population focused mainly on agricultural plant use, within court society the sophisticated integration of plants for purposes of representing status and power was foregrounded. Bourgeois practices of plant use, however, involved the enthusiasm for the developing interest in natural sciences and the participation in groups that produced and circulated this knowledge. Via ‘home botany’ urban elites took part in the general knowledge production of the enlightenment. On the one hand, practices like botanizing as a part of the widespread trend of collecting emerged and became popular. On the other hand the domestication of plants in the so-called „Zimmergärtnerei“ came up, taking nature into the household. In that respect plants do not only become objects of study, but also a part of daily life and daily routines within these houses and households. These practices foster the integration of plant-knowledge and plant-rearing into bourgeois sets of value, bourgeois life style and the way urban elites saw themselves. While popular forms of knowledge practices declined when botany was shifted into ‘hard science’ with its institutionalization in university teaching and scientific research in the mid-19th century, the ‘gardens within’ survived, but lost their function as status symbols. Whether this coincided with the polarization of gender roles in the 19th century, defining domestic horticulture as a genuine ‘female’ field of activity, still has to be discussed.

Supervisor: Claudia Opitz-Belakhal
Researcher Elise Voerkel

Since Philippe Ariès published his famous book in 1960, there has been much research on the history of childhood. But until very recently, the focus has almost exclusively been on the (pedagogical) discourse on childhood and education. The children’s situation and position within the family – varying according to age, gender, social and religious origin – has attracted much less attention. Furthermore, children have mostly been seen as ‘objects’ of practices and discourses. Only recently, for example due to the increased interest in children’s role in the European witch craze, has there been a growing awareness of children’s agency in the patriarchal and hierarchical world of early modern household-families and society. At the same time, Enlightenment debates on new forms of family life, child rearing, education and schooling (especially the ‘Höhere Mädchenbildung’ for girls) began to reshape bourgeois practices and identities, in Switzerland and elsewhere. This project aims to bring together the rich source material of 18th century Switzerland, particularly from the German-speaking protestant City states (Basel, Bern, Zurich). The focus will be the bourgeois families’ rich correspondence about and also with children, as well as diaries, autobiographies and memoirs. The main questions relate to when and how children (i.e. from newborn to the age of about 12 years) and childrearing practices appear in family correspondence and ego-documents. Can we then detect a change in the timespan ca. 1750 to 1830? Further questions concern the (possibly changing) influence of mothers on the education of children and child-care practices. Did their influence increase with the improvement of girls’ education and the growing interest in small children during the second half of the 18th century? Or, on the contrary, did the father become an even more important authority, at least for the rearing and education of sons? Is there in consequence an increasing bifurcation along gender lines of family life along with these newly emerging education practices? What was the impact of the male relatives? And how did aunts and female cousins interact in raising children? Is there in fact a growing importance of relatives and thus a new kind of social openness? Or is the ‘realm of childhood’, on the contrary, the very space of emotionalisation and intimisation of domestic and family life, as Phlippe Ariès once suggested? Last but not least, the changing role of domestic servants in raising children has to be clarified.