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

Steven Shapin writes:

Matters of Exchange is both a considerable scholarly achievement and a largely implicit argument that a real and important set of changes in ways of knowing and doing that took place in the 17th century – for all that they took place gradually, diffusely and patchily – might as well be called revolutionary. It is a revolution in which the Netherlands, and the lands affected by Dutch power and commercial relations, take centre stage, a revolution whose seminal text isn’t Galileo’s Dialogue or Newton’s Principia Mathematica but one of any number of herbals or travel guides, whose crucial site is neither a philosopher’s closet nor an astronomical observatory but a botanic garden or a cabinet of curiosities, whose heroes scarcely anyone has heard of, and whose characteristic practices are not experimenting and theorising but describing and reliably communicating the characteristics of particular objects on a global scale.

(LRB 7 February 2008)