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

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

by Harold J. Cook


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

In this wide-ranging and stimulating book, a leading authority on the history of medicine and science presents convincing evidence that Dutch commerce-not religion-inspired the rise of science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Harold J. Cook scrutinizes a wealth of historical documents relating to the study of medicine and natural history in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, Brazil, South Africa, and Asia during this era, and his conclusions are fresh and exciting. He uncovers direct links between the rise of trade and commerce in the Dutch Empire and the flourishing of scientific investigation.
Cook argues that engaging in commerce changed the thinking of Dutch citizens, leading to a new emphasis on such values as objectivity, accumulation, and description. The preference for accurate information that accompanied the rise of commerce also laid the groundwork for the rise of science globally, wherever the Dutch engaged in trade. Medicine and natural history were fundamental aspects of this new science, as reflected in the development of gardens for both pleasure and botanical study, anatomical theaters, curiosity cabinets, and richly illustrated books about nature. Sweeping in scope and original in its insights, this book revises previous understandings of the history of science and ideas.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780300143218
Publisher: Yale University Press
Publication date: 07/10/2008
Edition description: New Edition
Pages: 576
Product dimensions: 5.62(w) x 11.08(h) x 1.34(d)

About the Author

Harold J. Cook is director of the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine and professor at University College London. He lives in London.

Table of Contents

Preface     xi
Worldly Goods and the Transformations of Objectivity     1
An Information Economy     42
Reformations Tempered: In Pursuit of Natural Facts     82
Commerce and Medicine in Amsterdam     133
Truths and Untruths from the Indies     175
Medicine and Materialism: Descartes in the Republic     226
Industry and Analysis     267
Gardens of the Indies Transported     304
Translating What Works: The Medicine of East Asia     339
The Refusal to Speculate: Sticking to Simple Things     378
Conclusions and Comparisons     410
Notes     417
Bibliography     473
Index     537

What People are Saying About This

Mary E. Fissell

Matters of Exchange is a magisterial book linking science and commerce. From now on, 'the Scientific Revolution' has a Dutch accent.—Mary E. Fissell, Johns Hopkins University

Simon Schaffer

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 René 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

Lisa Jardine

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

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Mark Harrison

Cook challenges existing interpretations of the rise of science during the early modern period and provides an immensely informative overview of science and medicine in the Dutch Golden Age.—Mark Harrison, University of Oxford

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