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A social history of knowledge : from Gutenberg to Diderot / Peter Burke

Main Author Burke, Peter, 1937- Country Reino Unido. Publication Cambridge : Polity Press, cop. 2000 Description VII, 268 p. : il. ; 23 cm ISBN 0-7456-2485-5 CDU 301 165
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Monografia Biblioteca de Ciências da Educação
BCE 301 - B Available 281086
Monografia Biblioteca Geral da Universidade do Minho
BGUM 301 - B Available 297716
Monografia Biblioteca da UMinho no Campus de Azurém
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Enhanced descriptions from Syndetics:

In this book Peter Burke adopts a socio-cultural approach to examine the changes in the organization of knowledge in Europe from the invention of printing to the publication of the French Encyclopédie .

The book opens with an assessment of different sociologies of knowledge from Mannheim to Foucault and beyond, and goes on to discuss intellectuals as a social group and the social institutions (especially universities and academies) which encouraged or discouraged intellectual innovation. Then, in a series of separate chapters, Burke explores the geography, anthropology, politics and economics of knowledge, focusing on the role of cities, academies, states and markets in the process of gathering, classifying, spreading and sometimes concealing information. The final chapters deal with knowledge from the point of view of the individual reader, listener, viewer or consumer, including the problem of the reliability of knowledge discussed so vigorously in the seventeenth century.

One of the most original features of this book is its discussion of knowledges in the plural. It centres on printed knowledge, especially academic knowledge, but it treats the history of the knowledge 'explosion' which followed the invention of printing and the discovery of the world beyond Europe as a process of exchange or negotiation between different knowledges, such as male and female, theoretical and practical, high-status and low-status, and European and non-European.

Although written primarily as a contribution to social or socio-cultural history, this book will also be of interest to historians of science, sociologists, anthropologists, geographers and others in another age of information explosion.

Table of contents provided by Syndetics

  • List of Illustrations
  • 8 Acquiring Knowledge: The Reader's Share
  • 9 Trusting and Distrusting Knowledge; a Coda
  • Select Bibliography
  • Index
  • Preface and Acknowledgements
  • 1 Sociologies and Histories of Knowledge: an Introduction
  • 2 Professing Knowledge: the European Clerisy
  • 3 Establishing Knowledge: Institutions Old and New
  • 4 Locating Knowledge: Centres and Peripheries
  • 5 Classifying Knowledge: Curricula, Libraries and Encyclopaedias
  • 6 Controlling Knowledge: Churches and States
  • 7 Selling Knowledge: the Market and the Press

Reviews provided by Syndetics


Drawing on four decades of evaluating early modern texts, Burke (cultural history, Cambridge) offers a fluently written, pathbreaking essay on the production, organization, dissemination, and consumption of information at the onset of modernity. Inspired by sociologists (Veblen, Mannheim), anthropologists (Levi-Strauss), historians of science (Thomas Kuhn), philosophers (Foucault), and social historians (James Harvey Robinson), he provides the first comprehensive treatment of the social and cultural contexts of knowledge in western Europe from the Renaissance to the Enlightenment. He deals primarily with printed materials, but also includes oral knowledge, images, collections of material objects, and craft wisdom. For comparison and contrast, he refers frequently to ancient and medieval periods and to the non-Western world. Major topics include society (intellectuals and their institutions), geography (knowledge centers and peripheries), anthropology (organization of knowledge in curricula, libraries, and encyclopedias), politics (information control by church and state), economics (the print trade), consumption (acquiring and using knowledge), and philosophy (critically evaluating claims). Burke grounds all in a wealth of provocative detail, from the origin of playbills to Islam's tardy adoption of printing, and provides an excellent scholarly apparatus. Highly recommended for all libraries; all readership levels. P. S. Spalding Illinois College

Author notes provided by Syndetics

Peter Burke is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.

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