Placing the Enlightenment: Thinking Geographically about the by Charles W. J. Withers

By Charles W. J. Withers

The Enlightenment used to be the age during which the area turned smooth, demanding culture in want of cause, freedom, and significant inquiry. whereas many facets of the Enlightenment were conscientiously scrutinized—its origins and motivations, its valuable characters and defining gains, its legacy and sleek relevance—the geographical dimensions of the period have beforehand principally been neglected. putting the Enlightenment contends that the Age of cause used to be not just a interval of pioneering geographical research but additionally an age with spatial dimensions to its content material and concerns.Investigating the function area and site performed within the production and reception of Enlightenment principles, Charles W. J. Withers attracts from the fields of paintings, technology, historical past, geography, politics, and faith to discover the legacies of Enlightenment nationwide id, navigation, discovery, and data. finally, geography is published to be the resource of a lot of the uncooked fabric from which philosophers formed theories of the human condition.Lavishly illustrated and engagingly written, putting the Enlightenment will curiosity Enlightenment experts from around the disciplines in addition to any student excited about the function geography has performed within the making of the trendy international. (20071201)

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Extra resources for Placing the Enlightenment: Thinking Geographically about the Age of Reason

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It is a summary synthesis of much other work: to do with the earth as the object of geographical scrutiny, of different places figuring in the Enlightenment, of the Age of Reason as geographical in its ideas, individuals, and institutions. Not everyone who has an interest in the Enlightenment will share my concern to place it and to site it through geographical events and processes or to see it, indeed, as geographical in any of these senses. The point might legitimately be made that there is a danger here: by extending the diversity of ideas that the label “the Enlightenment” encom- introduction 21 passes, I risk reducing its power to explain anything.

Yet for Gay, the Enlightenment’s “what” and its “where” did mean much the same thing. It was an essentially philosophical and French enterprise, embodied in those Voltairean radicals—“the party of humanity,” that “little flock of philosophes,” as he variously terms them—bound together from the 1730s by the promotion of atheism, republicanism, and materialism. ” The Enlightenment had a capital, even a spiritual home—and it was Paris. ” 1 As matters of geographical and historical fact and in relation to recent trends of historiographical interpretation, such views merit scrutiny.

By permission of the Bibliothèque Nationale de France (Coll. Hennin 11075). The 1981 book The Enlightenment in National Context was an important moment in thinking about the Age of Reason nationally and geographically. The editors recognized that “comparatively little has been written about its [the Enlightenment] geographical, social and political location as a cultural movement” and that many studies treated the Enlightenment simply as sys- T h e E n l i g h t e n m e n t i n N at i o n a l C o n t e x t 31 tems of socially disembodied ideas.

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