's Artisanal Enlightenment: Science and the Mechanical Arts in Old Regime France
(Yale University Press, 2017) is an innovative new look at the role of artisans in the French Enlightenment. As savants attempted to appropriate leadership of the mechanical arts while deriding artisans as mere laborers, some of these refashioned themselves as artistes
, capable of blending craft knowledge with intellectual esprit
. Through the little studied and understood Société des Arts
, these advertised their service and utility to the state and French economic and imperial expansion. As they fought for official appointments and academic recognition, they helped solidify the Enlightenment concept of technological progress. Through the eyes and experiences of artistes
, the Enlightenment appears much less the product of intellectual breakthroughs, and instead, a reflection of the political economic strategies of artisans as they defined their role within the French empire.
Lance C. Thurner recently completed a PhD in History at Rutgers University with a dissertation addressing the production of medical knowledge, political subjectivities, and racial and national identities in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Mexico. He is broadly interested in the methods and politics of applying a global perspective to the history of science and medicine and the role of the humanities in the age of the Anthropocene.