2009 |

The Brokered World

The Brokered World

Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770-1820

Simon Schaffer, Lissa Roberts, Kapil Raj, James Delbourgo
Sagamore Beach,  Science History publ.,  [2009], 522 p.

Contents and Downloadable Introduction


This book offers detailed consideration of forms of knowledge production and circulation at a key moment in the development of global scientific, commercial and political systems. In particular, it focuses on the roles of intermediaries such as brokers and spies, messengers and translators, missionaries and entrepreneurs, in linking different parts of these ever more densely entangled systems. The period 1770-1820 was decisive for the reformation of imperial projects in the wake of military catastrophe and politico-economic crisis, both in the Atlantic and the Asian/Pacific spheres, economic and political worlds dominated by complex trade systems and violent contest. The conjuncture also saw the overhaul of networks and institutions of natural knowledge, whether commercial, voluntary or organs of state. Both the industrial and the second scientific revolutions have been dated to this moment. New and decisive relations were forged between different cultures’ knowledge carriers. The book’s chapters consider knowledge movements of the epoch that escape simple models of metropolitan centre and remote colonial periphery. They question the immutable character of mediators and agents in knowledge communication. Instead, they explore how experiences of travel, assimilation and expropriation changed both the bearers of knowledge and the knowledges communicated. A range of such enterprises was in play here, including anatomy, chemistry and natural history ; chronology, philology and jurisprudence ; astronomy, survey science and engineering. The book’s aim is to help make a better account of the worldly interaction between the kinds of knowledge communicated, the agents of communication and the paths they travelled.


  • James Delbourgo (Rutgers University)
  • Robert Liss (Travellers’)
  • Margaret Meredith (University of California, San Diego)
  • Juan Pimentel (Instituto de Historia, CSIC, Madrid)
  • Kapil Raj (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
  • Lissa Roberts (Universiteit Twente)
  • Neil Safier (University of British Columbia, Vancouver)
  • Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge)
  • Emma Spary (Wellcome Trust Centre for History of Medicine, London)
  • Sanjay Subrahmanyam (University of California, Los Angeles)
  • David Turnbull (Melbourne University)

ISBN : 9780881353747

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