Universiteit Leiden

nl en

PhD project

The Dark Middle Ages: Language of Vice in Histories of Science, 1700-1900

In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this project inquires: Which early modern vices persisted into the 19th century and to what extent were those vices embodied in anecdotes, conveyed through commonplaces, or symbolically represented in stereotypical images?

Duration
2019 - 2023
Contact
Hidde Slotboom
Funding
NWO Vici NWO Vici

Preliminary research reveals that emblematic stories about vice such as codified in William Whewell’s History of the Inductive Sciences (1837) found their way into countless 19th- and 20th-century histories of science. This is true not only for Whewell’s image of the dark Middle Ages – the “barren period, which intervened between the scientific activity of ancient Greece, and that of modern Europe” – but also for anecdotes such as Vergilius of Salzburg being censured by Pope Zachary and Galileo being condemned by the Inquisition.

Whewell in turn borrowed these story elements from Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s Encyclopédie, just as his “emplotment” of the history of science as a gradual triumph of virtue over vice was indebted, more generally, to 18th-century histories of science, dictionaries of arts and science, and historia literaria.

In comparing a selection of 18th-century histories to a representative sample of 19th-century histories of science, this project inquires: Which early modern vices persisted into the 19th century and to what extent were those vices embodied in anecdotes, conveyed through commonplaces, or symbolically represented in stereotypical images?

Connection with other research

This website uses cookies.  More information.