A Social History of Knowledge: From Gutenberg to Diderot / Edition 1

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In this book Peter Burke adopts a socio-cultural approach to examine the changes in the organization of knowledge in Europe from the invention of printing to the publication of the French Encyclopedie.

The book opens with an assessment of different sociologies of knowledge from Mannheim to Foucault and beyond, and goes on to discuss intellectuals as a social group and the social institutions (especially universities and academies) which encouraged or discouraged intellectual innovation. Then, in a series of separate chapters, Burke explores the geography, anthropology, politics and economics of knowledge, focusing on the role of cities, academies, states and markets in the process of gathering, classifying, spreading and sometimes concealing information. The final chapters deal with knowledge from the point of view of the individual reader, listener, viewer or consumer, including the problem of the reliability of knowledge discussed so vigorously in the seventeenth century.

One of the most original features of this book is its discussion of knowledges in the plural. It centres on printed knowledge, especially academic knowledge, but it treats the history of the knowledge 'explosion' which followed the invention of printing and the discovery of the world beyond Europe as a process of exchange or negotiation between different knowledges, such as male and female, theoretical and practical, high-status and low-status, and European and non-European.

Although written primarily as a contribution to social or socio-cultural history, this book will also be of interest to historians of science, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and others in another age of information explosion.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
'In Peter Burke's scholarly hands the notion of a social history ofknowledge sheds its philosophical provocation and becomesjudicious, prudent and historically rich. A beautifully written andaccessible exercise in historical synthesis.' Steven Shapin,author of "A Social History of Truth: Civility and Science inSeventeenth-Century England" (1994) and Professor of Sociology,University of California, San Diego

'Peter Burke is an exceptional historian: a polyglot, at home ina dozen languages; an intellectual, who is well versed intheoretical developments adjacent to history; a superb expositor,with the capacity to distil his findings in unpretentious andlimpidly accessible prose; and an author of unflagging vitality,whose prolific studies in the cultural history of early modernEurope and in modern historiography constitute a formidableoeuvre ... He has succeeded in producing a balanced,judicious and highly stimulating work of synthesis. His book willbe an indispensable starting point for years to come.' KeithThomas, History Today

'Burke has made a significant contribution to cultural history... [He] shows how knowledge was a form of exchange and how itbecame what we would recognize it as today. Burke's achievement inA Social History of Knowledge is to remind us that people in thepast did not view knowledge in the same way as we do today.'History

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780745624853
  • Publisher: Wiley
  • Publication date: 12/27/2000
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 268
  • Sales rank: 1,573,865
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.59 (d)

Meet the Author

Asa Briggs is Chancellor of the Open University and Provostof Worcester College, Oxford.

Peter Burke is Professor of Cultural History at theUniversity of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College,Cambridge.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations.

Preface and Acknowledgements.

1. Sociologies and Histories of Knowledge: an Introduction.

2. Professing Knowledge: the European Clerisy.

3. Establishing Knowledge: Institutions Old and New.

4. Locating Knowledge: Centres and Peripheries.

Classifying Knowledge: Curricula, Libraries andEncyclopaedias.

6. Controlling Knowledge: Churches and States.

7. Selling Knowledge: the Market and the Press.

8. Acquiring Knowledge: The Reader's Share.

9. Trusting and Distrusting Knowledge; a Coda.

Select Bibliography.


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