CIRCKNOW, TheCirculation of naturalistic knowledge in Modern Europe (1500-1850): a Micro-analytical perspective – 7th European Community Framework Programme

Dr Raffaella Bruzzone, Marie Curie Fellow, University of Nottingham

The CIRCKNOW project investigates how natural history knowledge was understood and disseminated in Europe 1500-1800. It brings together botanical, historical, art historical and linguistic approaches. It develops a novel methodological approach using a micro-historical lens to examine herbals, archives and correspondence, determine where and in what context they were produced and for what purposes.

The aims are:

  1. To explore and validate micro-historical and ethnobotanical approaches through case studies which will be analysed in their local context (production, area, landscape) through different kind of archival sources (notebooks, letters, herbals, drawings, books).
  2. To examine different techniques of representation, access to sources, knowledge and circulation and the different views of nature and landscape held by English naturalists travelling through the Italian landscape. This will be undertaken by analysing each case-study in its local context.
  3. To study the four main sources identified so far: Gherardo Cibo’s herbal (British Library); John Ray’s herbarium (Natural History Museum); part of Francis Willughby’s archives (Middleton Collection, University of Nottingham) and a herbal manuscript Ms95 from Eastern Liguria and the private archive and library of the De Paoli family.
  4. To collect, compare and contrast data about naturalistic cultural heritage in Italy and the UK and to assess the legacy of the ethnobotanical knowledge in the present day.

The sources and the documents analysed are in England (for example the Natural History Museum; the British Library; the Linnaean Society Archives and Library; University of Nottingham Archives) and in Italy (Rural Museum of Cassego, Spezia; University of Genoa archives; Archivio di Stato di Genova; private libraries and archives in Parma).

The project is based at the University of Nottingham in the School of Geography (Professor Charles Watkins) and the Department of History (Dr Ross Balzaretti). It runs from May 2014-April 2016. The results will be published in academic journals and presented at scientific conferences.


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