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Seminar 1: Scholarly Correspondence from the Jesuits

Dr Noël Golvers answers questions following his talk.

In the opening paper of the Project’s seminar series on Thursday 29 April, Dr Noël Golvers (Catholic University of Leuven) provided a large audience with a fascinating overview of the contours, chronology, and thematic preoccupations of ‘Scholarly Correspondence from the Jesuits in China with Europe (17th–18th Centuries)’. In a wide-ranging analysis, Golvers argued for the strategic importance of a large, well-regulated correspondence network to this administratively complex and geographically distributed community, a network which frequently and increasingly sustained communication on scientific matters alongside confessional and organizational subjects (previously used by Golvers to shed light on Jesuit contributions to astronomy and mathematics). He provided an overview of the characteristics of the correspondence generated by the China mission, information on transfer routes (both overseas and overland), and a synopsis of the broad range of learned topics they covered, especially from the 1680s (including mathematics, astronomy, engineering, and cartography). He also considered the impact of the letters on contemporary European readers, as well as their descent to and organisation within modern archives and collections. Overall, the paper provided fresh insights into both a particular epistolary culture of knowledge, and a neglected source for seventeenth-century European and world history more generally. Seminars take place in the Faculty of History on George Street on Thursdays at 3pm. For future seminars in the series, please see here.

podcast_icon2Podcast now available on the seminar page!