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Unknown Unknowns. Ignorance Of The Indies Among Late Seventeenth-Century Scots

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Chapter Summary

In the last twenty years scholars have noted that the book trade did not entirely replace alternative channels for knowledge circulation in Europe. Burke's and Shapin's have encouraged a view of the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries as a time of knowledge expansion networks. But there was no work on the persistence of barriers to the circulation of knowledge in early modern Britain. In this chapter the author attempts to correct the imbalance through a small case study of the Scots in the Netherlands and present evidence that certain categories of Scots knew surprisingly little in particular about the Dutch Indies. Scots involved in social networks in Holland which covered trade, seamanship, medicine and religious life,and which maintained powerful links with Scotland. He offers two explanations for the 'obstruction' of knowledge: decorum created constraints on exchanges between members of different classes.

Keywords: Burke and Shapin; Indies



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