Skip navigation
Please use this identifier to cite or link to this item:
Title: A Calculated Course: Creating Transoceanic Navigators, 1580-1800
Authors: Schotte, Margaret E.
Advisors: Grafton, Anthony T
Contributors: History Department
Keywords: Book History
Early Modern
Maritime History
tacit knowledge
Subjects: History of science
Mathematics education
Issue Date: 2014
Publisher: Princeton, NJ : Princeton University
Abstract: This dissertation, a transnational study of practical knowledge in maritime Europe, shows how early modern sailors acquired technical expertise—on board ship, through books, in the classroom, and elsewhere. It draws upon nautical legislation, curricula, published manuals, and extant student manuscripts produced in Britain, France and the Netherlands over the course of the 17<super>th</super> and 18<super>th</super> centuries. After outlining state concerns and the institutions to which these gave rise, <italic>A Calculated Course: Creating Transoceanic Navigators, 1580-1800</italic> focuses on the individuals who participated in and shaped these training programs. From the archives emerge not only practicing navigators but also their teachers, enterprising authors of popular guidebooks, and even those officials who presided over credentialing examinations. Tracing the interactions among these men brings into focus the habits, techniques and intellectual experience of participants in a diverse multinational community as they ranged across the Atlantic and beyond. By following the navigator as he negotiated local waters and distant oceans, <italic>A Calculated Course</italic> overcomes the nationalist orientation of much maritime history. This approach alters standard accounts of early modern cultural history and history of science in two key areas. First, it provides new evidence of the valuable contributions made by sailors to technical and scientific knowledge—and how these varied across Europe. From designing the nautical logbook as a navigational tool rather than an administrative one, to repurposing ineffective methods of determining longitude into practical rules of thumb, mariners did far more than simply accept the directives of land-based theoreticians. Extending recent re-assessments of the “Scientific Revolution” that accord a central role to artisans, this comparative study of the codification and dissemination of tacit (unwritten) and theoretical knowledge uncovers significant regional variation in attitudes toward technical expertise. The differences that emerged as a particular Iberian tradition of navigation spread north stemmed, this study suggests, from local economic and educational conditions. Thus, when seeking to understand longer-term patterns in scientific styles, nautical practitioners and institutions should be considered an important bellwether. This project also integrates navigational knowledge into the history of print culture and information management. It demonstrates that, far from being kept secret, and despite high geopolitical stakes, navigational information flowed across political borders with relative ease. Contemporary practitioners concerned themselves not with secrecy but with accuracy and credibility, crucial factors at a time when a typographical error could sink a ship. Ultimately, the analysis of these issues, as well as of the interactions between mathematics and memory, visual elements and textual instruction, deepens our historical understanding of pedagogy and cognition both at sea and on dry land. Not only was the trajectory from “traditional” to “scientific” sailing much less straightforward than has been presumed, but navigation turns out to have belonged to the growing public culture of information that grew up in the early modern world.
Alternate format: The Mudd Manuscript Library retains one bound copy of each dissertation. Search for these copies in the library's main catalog
Type of Material: Academic dissertations (Ph.D.)
Language: en
Appears in Collections:History

Files in This Item:
File Description SizeFormat 
Schotte_princeton_0181D_10947.pdf3.89 MBAdobe PDFView/Download

Items in Dataspace are protected by copyright, with all rights reserved, unless otherwise indicated.