Workshop/CfP: “Deep History in the Long Eighteenth Century” & Lecture by Martin Rudwick (Amsterdam, 8 May 2019; Deadline 20 March)

The Amsterdam School for Historical Studies (UvA) will host a workshop on ‘deep history in the long eighteenth century’ with the prominent historian of science Martin Rudwick (University of Cambridge). We welcome scholars from a variety of backgrounds to participate in this workshop.

Over the course of the eighteenth century, natural history became the history of nature. European naturalists, historians, biblical scholars, antiquaries, and various other savants sought to reconstruct the deep history of their world on ever-larger timelines and a planetary scale. This reconstruction involved a wide variety of knowledge disciplines, new ways of seeing, and new ideas about the origins of both nature and culture.

The interdisciplinary character of questions about deep history in the eighteenth-century demands an interdisciplinary approach from today’s historians. Thus the workshop aims to bring together specialists from a variety of fields.

Participants are asked to write a short (1000-1500 word) introduction to aspects of their research related to the workshop and give a short presentation (10 minutes). If you would like to participate, please send a short abstract (100-200 words) to Mathijs Boom, m.boom@uva.nl before March 20th.

Lecture by Martin Rudwick

Martin J.S. Rudwick, From Natural History to the History of Nature. Public lecture, hosted  by  the Vossius  Center (University of Amsterdam),  in co-operation with the Stevin Centre (Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam).

The  sciences  of  traditional  ‘natural  history’  were  devoted  to  the description of  entities  of  all  kinds –‘animal, vegetable and mineral’ –in the natural world.  Complementing them were the sciences, often grouped  as  ‘natural  philosophy’,  that  were  devoted  to understanding  the causes of  natural  events  and processes,  which  were  taken  to  be  unchanging,  ‘yesterday,  today,  and  forever’.  In  contrast  to  both categories, the term ‘history’ –in its modern sense –was applied primarily to the human world, from individuals  to  nations  and  civilisations:  the  natural  world  had  no  real  history,  between  its  origin  or creation in the distant past and its imagined end in the future.Yet by the 19th century, as symbolised by the figure of Darwin, nature itself was regarded as having its own long and eventful history, culminating in the evolution of the human species.  Rudwick shall argue that  what  is  missing  from  this  over-simple  story  is  the  role  of  the  sciences  of  the  Earth  (later  named ‘geology’) as the first of the natural sciences to become truly historical, and that it did so by adopting methods, images and analogies from human history and transposing them into the natural world.

About the speaker

Martin J.S. Rudwick  is  professor emeritus at  the  University  of  California,  San Diego and  affiliated scholar in the Department of the History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. Educated at Trinity College Cambridge, he trained as a palaeontologist before moving to the history of science  department  in  Cambridge.His  most  recent  book  is Earth’s  Deep  History:  How  It  Was Discovered  and  Why  It  Matters (2016). He is  widely  regarded  as  the  most  influential  historian  of  the earth sciences of the past decades.

Venue and time

May 9th, 2019, Bushuis, Universiteit van Amsterdam. The lecture commences in the VOC Room at 14.00 hrs.