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COMPLETE Modern History II Notes: Part 6 -- got 92% in the course!

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Boston College
HIST 1082

Collecting and Creating New Knowledge 10/17/12 • Humanists used classical sources along with Bible to define their world and different cultures found outsidthof Europe • Beginning in early 16 century, reverence for classical texts began to erode o Breaking with intellectual authorities and caused skepticism toward authorities  What replaced these intellectual authorities? • Expansion into new world = major factor of erosion of classical texts o As Portugese sailed down coast ofAfrica, realized that Ptolemy’s Geography was wrong  More accurate representations ofAfrica were created • In 30 years that followed Columbus’first voyage, learned that Earth was larger and full of water than previously believed o Columbus himself retained a pathological belief that he reachedAsia • Europeans began to accept that Columbus discovered a land mass that was previously unknown to them • Vasco Nunez de Balboa sailed through Panama to Pacific Ocean • Magellan circumnavigated world • These new discoveries trumped previous thoughts o Pliny’s Encyclopedia was proved false  Challenged every writer who ever described the “whole world” • Classical writers didn’t know about the new world or what inhabited there o Raised question of what else was out there and what else classical writers could be wrong about  Shook European’s view of classical authority • Problem with nature/source of knowledge o Needed to create new knowledge…how to create it though?  Epistemological challenge of the new world • Renaissance humanism contributed to partial undoing of epistemological problem o Natural sciences broke away from humanist traditions  One of the seeds of that break lied in humanist practices o Humanists learned to read classical texts carefully and extract meaning to support their own agendas  Easily turned against classical texts because they were highly trained critical thinkers • Extremely well aware of challenge that discovery of new world posed against classical texts • The invention of the printing press made by Johannes Gutenberg o Movable type (crucial) so it could be easily rearranged  Published 42 line Bible  Book of Psalms • Print technology spread explosively across Europe o By 1465, printing presses were operating in 2 cities o By 1480, almost 350 print shops operating in Europe o Produced more books in 50 years than when there was no printing press all the years before  Would have to copy books out themselves if they wanted a book • Often full of errors • Humanists were in the business of correcting errors in classical text o Embraced printing press because it was easier to correct errors  Spread humanism even more across Europe • 1493, on way back from Spain, Columbus stopped in Canary Islands o Sent letter back to Ferdinand/Isabella about what they found and described inhabitants  Claimed to find gold mines on islands and every river was full of gold • Maximum appeal to Europeans and European rulers o Letter was translated into many languages that many Europeans from all over could understand • Faced with a new world, Europeans increasingly felt need for new technologies and authorities o Turned to empiricism (experience and observations as the best way to gain knowledge about the world)  Empirical practices were well established in European life • Scholars started to draw on them as a source of knowledge as classical sources eroded o What change was the prestige associated with knowledge  Knowledge from classical texts used to be prestigious and most authoritative • Humanists were considered prestigious  Empirical knowledge began to acquire level that classical knowledge previously held • Didn’t seize empiricism out of thin air and it didn’t become popular overnight o Seized on empiricism because it was already rising in popularity  Social changes in society similar to that which brought Popolo to power and in charge of banks • Increased technical proficiency which laid way for greater empirical knowledge • Empirical technologies regarding navigation o Accuracy of knowledge new navigators derived from their experience derived from their chart  Portolan charts that contained geographically accurate drawings of coastlines, place names, etc. • Coexisted with classical maps of Ptolemy • Portolan charts was first empirical technologies granted the same prestige as classical texts o Replaced Ptolemy’s maps o Master portolans were constantly updated and kept from other states hoping to compete over territory/trade o Establ
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