By Shannon Dea, University of Waterloo and Ted McCormick, Concordia University (republished from ; original here) According to tech entrepreneur Patrick Collison and economist Tyler Cowen, academia needs a new discipline called “progress studies.” But their proposal overlooks two crucial facts: human progress has been an object of study for centuries, and innovators ignorant of that scholarship … Continue reading Can ‘Progress Studies’ Contribute to Knowledge? History Suggests Caution
Once we stop thinking of the past as a failed but noble attempt at the present, many of its inexplicable, repulsive, or ridiculous aspects take on a new colour. A good example is alchemical transmutation, an evident impossibility that nevertheless occupied -- and not just occupied, but motivated -- the likes of Newton or Boyle, … Continue reading Perpetual Motion: Technology, Slavery, and History
In the wake of the Royal Society (London, 1660) and the Académie Royale (Paris, 1666), a slew of scientific societies formed in the later seventeenth-century European world, nodes in an expanding network of institutions devoted to experimental science, natural history, and kindred sorts of philosophical activity. A short-lived member of this scientific community was the … Continue reading Happiness as a Colonial Science: new publication
In his 1697 Essay on Projects, Daniel Defoe referred to his era as a "Projecting Age": a time of schemes, plots and plans to make life (life in general, and the projector's life in particular) better. Many projects were what we would call scams, and many more looked that way. In a conservative and moralizing age, projects were … Continue reading New Publication: Towards a History of Projects
Historians, historically, are lone wolves. In contrast to most STEM and social-science research, the typical product of a historian's efforts is a single-authored article or (better) scholarly monograph, most likely supported by individual grants and researched and written alone during individual sabbatical or research leave. As far as funding goes this has begun to change, perhaps especially … Continue reading Why Team-Teach History?