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Matters of Exchange

Matters of Exchange: Commerce, Medicine, and Science in the Dutch Golden Age

Harold J. Cook
Copyright Date: 2007
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 576
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  • Book Info
    Matters of Exchange
    Book Description:

    In this wide-ranging and stimulating book, a leading authority on the history of medicine and science presents convincing evidence that Dutch commerce-not religion-inspired the rise of science in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Harold J. Cook scrutinizes a wealth of historical documents relating to the study of medicine and natural history in the Netherlands and elsewhere in Europe, Brazil, South Africa, and Asia during this era, and his conclusions are fresh and exciting. He uncovers direct links between the rise of trade and commerce in the Dutch Empire and the flourishing of scientific investigation.Cook argues that engaging in commerce changed the thinking of Dutch citizens, leading to a new emphasis on such values as objectivity, accumulation, and description. The preference for accurate information that accompanied the rise of commerce also laid the groundwork for the rise of science globally, wherever the Dutch engaged in trade. Medicine and natural history were fundamental aspects of this new science, as reflected in the development of gardens for both pleasure and botanical study, anatomical theaters, curiosity cabinets, and richly illustrated books about nature. Sweeping in scope and original in its insights, this book revises previous understandings of the history of science and ideas.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-13492-6
    Subjects: General Science

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
  3. Preface
    (pp. xi-xiv)
  4. 1 Worldly Goods and the Transformations of Objectivity
    (pp. 1-41)

    Likemost works of history, this book offers an account of how we got to be the way we are. It seeks to share an understanding of how some ways of knowing the world that are too often taken for granted, or seem simple-minded—particularly the detailed and exacting description of natural objects—grew into what came to be called “the new philosophy” of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. The aspect of the modern world explored most fully is, then, sometimes called “the rise of modern science,” or “the scientific revolution.” It took place during the first age of global commerce....

  5. 2 An Information Economy
    (pp. 42-81)

    The ways of knowing that surrounded objectivity established highly probable facts despite a world in constant change. This appreciation for things and their descriptions gave substance to the culture of taste and objectivity and was in turn built on the sociable interactions of exchange. Like the values of taste and consumption, exchange began from the precise knowledge of things that came via personal experience, but it also included the ability to transform one value into another. Methods of exchange, then, also had fundamental implications for establishing the value of certain kinds of knowing, turning information into knowledge.

    Objects themselvesmight be...

  6. 3 Reformations Tempered: In Pursuit of Natural Facts
    (pp. 82-132)

    The terrible tragedies of the Reformation and Counter-Reformation were doubly fierce because of theologians and philosophers who were convinced that they knew the ways of God and what he wanted from humanity; many of them also intensely disapproved of the concern for worldly things. Theological rationalists of many kinds, whether Protestant or Catholic, were organizing, turning outmore people like themselves, and persuading political leaders to support their agendas. On the other hand, to people like Desiderius Erasmus, Rabelais, Montaigne, and many others inculcated in the new ways of knowing of the Renaissance, the theologians’ convictions merely proved their pride of...

  7. 4 Commerce and Medicine in Amsterdam
    (pp. 133-174)

    In January 1632, a well-to-do physician and magistrate of the city of Amsterdam commissioned a large portrait showing himself and several surgeons expounding the moral lessons of anatomy. The result was one of the most famous paintings of the seventeenth century:The Anatomy Lesson of Dr. Nicolaes Tulp,painted by a young artist who had just moved to the city, Rembrandt van Rijn. The painter broke convention in the way he portrayed the lesson, which was performed in late January and early February. He did not pose his subjects standing at ease with a skeleton or body in their midst...

  8. 5 Truths and Untruths from the Indies
    (pp. 175-225)

    It was from his own sickbed when, at about eight in the evening of 19 September 1629, he was called to attend the governor-general, who had collapsed. The doctor had been worried about Coen’s health and had advised him to cut back on his duties, but Coen was a single-minded man who insisted on continuing his rounds, inspecting the defenses despite prolonged and severe diarrhea, remarking that he did not have the time to keep to his bed, “as if he had said in a kind of prediction, that a general ought to die in the discharge of his duty.”...

  9. 6 Medicine and Materialism: Descartes in the Republic
    (pp. 226-266)

    Many netherlanders were aware of both the enormous wealth flowing in as the consequence of violence and trade and the lesson of public anatomies stressing how human abilities were linked to our material form. For some, the two were more than simply juxtaposed: they seemed to arise from our natures. Perhaps we humans are mere momentary concretions of natural elements, governed entirely by the laws of nature rather than by any divine purpose or even by our rational thoughts; perhaps powers in our bodies beyond our control—nature itself—cause us to act and even think as we do. Dutch...

  10. 7 Industry and Analysis
    (pp. 267-303)

    However much speculation and theory excited argument, the development of knowledge in medicine and natural history depended on accurate description. But for both description and analysis, investigators also adopted information acquired from the latest technologies of production. The methods used by apothecaries, chemists, lens grinders, and others to produce objects were taken up opportunistically by naturalists. These methods sometimes also had unexpected consequences for thematerials with which they worked, leading not only to more precise descriptive methods but to better tools of analysis. These methods in turn emerged from the activities of people engagedwith thematerial world rather than from discourse...

  11. 8 Gardens of the Indies Transported
    (pp. 304-338)

    Stimulated by a powerful combination of medical interests and enthusiasm for exotic garden specimens, Dutch investigations of the natural history of Asia and the southern Caribbean became renowned in the late seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. These efforts took on additional seriousness after the government in Batavia issued instructions for obtaining local medicines, but they were supported by the continuing interest of well-placed people in The Netherlands for exotic plants and naturalia. The enthusiasm for gardens and cabinets, in which exotic specimens could be grown and shown, and the wealth committed to their establishment and expansion, remained one of the...

  12. 9 Translating What Works: The Medicine of East Asia
    (pp. 339-377)

    The VOC sent Dr. Willem ten Rhijne to Japan not on their initiative or his or even as a part of the policy to adopt Asian medicinals within the VOC domains or to collect exotics for the liefhebbers in The Netherlands. He took ship because of a request from the Japanese government. In 1667, reiterated on 1 April 1668, the government of the reigning shogun, Tokugawa Ietsuna, asked the VOC to send them a physician with botanical and chemical experience.¹ By the mid-1670s, Ten Rhijne, who obtained the appointment, found himself deep in challenging conversations about the medicine of Europe...

  13. 10 The Refusal to Speculate: Sticking to Simple Things
    (pp. 378-409)

    The last three decades of the seventeenth century and well into the eighteenth century formed a period of conservative reaction in TheNetherlands. The country had been destroyed in therampjaar,the “disaster year” of 1672, and neither the economy nor the nation’s previous exuberant self-confidence was ever the same. Many blamed the problems on those who had governed before the invasion: the States Party, with its Francophilia, supposed nonchalance about national security, and liberal views in religion and philosophy. The religious activists in the Reformed church saw themselves as the bulwark against the continuing threat of Catholic imperialism led by...

  14. 11 Conclusions and Comparisons
    (pp. 410-416)

    Medicine and natural history clearly emerged as the big science of the early modern period, not only in the Dutch Republic but throughout Europe. For more than 150 years, from Clusius to Boerhaave, Dutch intellectuals found various ways to say that they hoped to describe and explain nature according to what could be known about it through the use of the five senses supplemented by reason. Objective facts not only could be deployed for the sake of utility, however, but could also take on the attributes of taste and discernment. The powers and pleasures of accurate descriptive knowledge were not...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 417-472)
  16. Bibliography
    (pp. 473-536)
  17. Index
    (pp. 537-562)