James PoskettMay 21, 2023
The Global Origins of Modern Science
Mariner Books 2021
In Horizons: A Global History of Science (Mariner Books, 2022), James Poskett, Associate Professor in the History of Science and Technology at the University of Warwick, begins by asking, “Where did modern science come from?” Arguing against the traditional narrative focusing on “genius” European men, Poskett invites us to reconsider and expand the geography of the history of modern science. Drawing from a wide range of recent scholarship, Poskett successfully tackles the challenge of presenting a “big picture” history of modern science addressing crucial questions of violence, colonization, resistance, and cultural exchange. This tour de force by Poskett shows that, despite legitimate concerns raised against big picture narratives, it is possible to write compelling, informative, and critical histories of modern science intended to both historians and the general public.
What if a history of modern science began with the Aztecs’ incredible botanical gardens in Mexico, rather than with Galileo Galilei pointing his telescope toward the moons of Jupiter? What if a history of modern science spent more time on the implications of Isaac Newton’s investments in the slave trade than on his famous “annus mirabilis”? Deceiving its readers’ expectations, Horizons focuses on modern science as the product of a global history characterized by cultural exchanges and uneven power relations. Inspiring new ways of making accessible the global history of science without compromising on its most problematic facets, Horizons also gives the opportunity to rethink the responsibilities of historians of science in today’s world.
Victor Monnin, Ph.D. is an historian of science specialized in the history of Earth sciences. He is also teaching French language and literature to undergraduates.