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Science by regimento: Standardising Long-Distance Control and New Spaces of Knowledge in Early Modern Portuguese Cosmography

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European expansion produced great transformations in the way modern societies were organised as well as in the management of new practices and spaces of knowledge. This article analyses the ways in which the Iberian world responded to such transformations through the creation of a series of control mechanisms that constitute the prehistory of the modern ways of standardising science. This article is thus a contribution to discussions of the normative and institutional development involving long-distance control that took place amongst the expansionist powers of early modern Europe. It examines one of the normative artefacts implemented by the Portuguese crown from the sixteenth to the seventeenth century, the Regimento do Cosmógrafo-Mor (1592), the visible face of a complex process of normalisation, control and circulation of information, which ultimately regulated the nautical and cosmographical practice of a long-distance global network. For this reason, this article refers to science by regimento, science that is produced and performed under clear directives. Through the study of this document I aim to highlight not only how the Portuguese overseas enterprise was organised, but also how its technical and scientific configuration, which regulated navigation in the Atlantic, the use of astrolabes, and the directions to depict previously unseen plants and animals, contributed to defining science in early modern Iberian societies.

Affiliations: 1: University of Lisbon


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