Cogut Institute for the Humanities
Center for the Study of the Early Modern World

2020 Research and Teaching Report: Harold Cook

I saw through to publication an edited book on the world-wide movement of forms of Chinese medicine in the early modern period: Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age (Leiden: Brill, 2020). Aspects of medicine arising in China began to be of interest to people beyond Asia, even in the Americas, despite its contested truths and the Celestial Empire’s lack of overseas empire in the period, developments that provide an important counter-example to many current arguments about the global circulation of European science due to its truth-value or to economic and political efforts at domination).

I taught two undergraduate courses in the fall of 2019, one of them a first-year seminar on “An Empire and Republic,” on the Dutch Republic, the other on the history of foods and drugs, which also contained a few weeks on early modern developments. In the spring I co-taught a seminar with Tara Nummedal and two colleagues from the University of Minnesota on the intersection of new forms of material life and knowledge, offered through the Cogut Institute for the Humanities.

I am the US sponsor of an EU Marie Curie Post-Doctoral Fellowship project “MAT-MED in Transit,” held by Sabrina Minuzzi of Università Ca' Foscari Venezia. The project focuses on early botanical publications in the Mediterranean, using materials in the Hay Library, and has a strong digital humanities component that is supported by advice from others at Brown, especially Elli Mylonas.

I also completed three papers for publication, two of them following up on the implications of the complications of the life of the young Descartes for his later published philosophical work. One of those focuses on how his relationship with the Princess Elizabeth arose from her patronage of to protect him during the Utrecht Crisis, when religious authorities were trying to have him arrested and his papers seized. Another is on the failure of the personal reputation of a Dutch artist and liefhebber, Cornelis de Bruyn, after the publication of his travels through Russia, Persia, and the Dutch East Indies around 1700.