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Citations since 2016
5 Research Items
My research focuses on connections between early social science, natural philosophy, religion, and government in early modern Britain, Ireland, and the Atlantic. My current book project examines the relation between quantitative approaches to population and ideas about providence, nature and government from the Tudor period through the eighteenth century -- or from Thomas More to T. R. Malthus. I am also interested in the history of science in Ireland, c.1630-1730, and in "improvement" projects.
This chapter argues against the received view of "pre-Malthusian" demographic thought as blindly optimistic and ignorant or dismissive of natural limits to growth. Setting aside the optimism/pessimism binary and the focus on radical Enlightenment attitudes toward demographic growth that often shape historical studies of Malthus, it focuses instead...
This introduction argues for the value of projecting as a category of analysis, while exploring the contexts for its emergence and spread as a genre of intellectual and practical activity in the sixteenth, seventeenth, and eighteenth centuries. The emergence of the morally ambivalent figure of the “projector” in Elizabethan and Stuart England – ini...
Despite the importance of the new science in the colonisation of Stuart Ireland, and the many Irish links to major figures in the Scientific Revolution, these connections remain relatively little studied outside of major episodes such as the Down Survey. This article examines a much smaller project, the ‘Computatio Universalis’ (1684) of Church of...
Cotton Mather's reputation as a scientific amateur rests on his unsystematic natural-historical observations, his correspondence with the Royal Society (of which he was the first American-born Fellow), and his defense of smallpox inoculation during the Boston outbreak of 1721. Yet Mather also engaged with another form of science: demographic statis...
This chapter examines the fate of Commonwealth-era science during the Restoration through two connected examples: Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal-Society (1667), and William Petty’s naval project, the ‘Double Bottom’ (1662-1664). In different ways, both examples reveal a similar set of deep ambiguities in the Restoration’s reception of the scie...
Seventeenth-and 18th-century political arithmetic – the gathering, interpretation, and dissemination of quantitative demographic information for various political, economic, scientific, and scholarly purposes – has attracted increasing scholarly attention since the mid-1990s. Long understood as an early or proto-social scientific discipline, antici...
Current approaches to the history of early modern population thought focus on the state and secular governance, while standard treatments of Restoration and Augustan “political arithmetic” emphasize its economic or social-scientific content. This article recovers nonsecular uses of demographic quantification, excavating the use of political arithme...
Ted H.Miller. Mortal Gods: Science, Politics, and the Humanist Ambitions of Thomas Hobbes. Philadelphia: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2011. Pp. 338. $74.95 (cloth). - Volume 52 Issue 4 - Ted McCormick
William Petty (1623-1687) was a key figure in the English colonization of Ireland, the institutionalization of experimental natural philosophy, and the creation of social science. Examining Petty's intellectual development and his invention of 'political arithmetic' against the backdrop of the European scientific revolution and the political upheav...
Abstract Political arithmetic, generally understood as an early form of political economy, was originally designed by Sir William Petty in the 1670s less as a method of quantitative analysis than as a program of government through the direct manipulation of demographic processes. In the context of the English colonization of Ireland, its goal was...
Historians have long seen Sir William Petty’s (1623–1687) ‘political arithmetic’ as an important contribution to the early social sciences, applying mathematics to the analysis of political and especially economic questions. A closer look at Petty’s political arithmetic manuscripts reveals, however, his political preoccupation with ‘transmuting the...
The question is occasioned by the Canadian government's recent abandonment of the long-form census (amid many other more overtly destructive initiatives); but as a historian of the early modern period, I'd be interested to know who is thinking about/working on this for the post-1500 period generally -- whether on a local, national, regional, or global level.
This project explores the intertwined evolution of scientific practice and colonial government by examining Ireland's layered roles in the Scientific Revolution. The century 1630-1730 witnessed Ireland's transformation from a rebellious, partially colonized, and largely Catholic kingdom into a settled province within an expanding British Empire, ruled by an Irish Protestant elite. It also saw the spread of experimental science, a new emphasis on the practical exploitation of natural knowledge and resources, and an ideological program -- initially associated with Francis Bacon (d.1626) and the Hartlib Circle (1630s-50s) and later with the Royal Society (founded 1660) -- promoting the "improvement" of nature and society. Political, social, and scientific revolutions were closely connected. Using a wide range of archival as well as printed and digitized materials, the project pursues these links along three axes. First, it considers science as an instrument of colonization. The largest state-backed scientific project of the early modern era, the "Down Survey" of 1654-6, was also the chief instrument for the Protestant expropriation of Catholic-owed land; from the work of the Hartlib Circle in the 1630-40s to the Dublin Society a century later, natural history, cartography, and agricultural innovations all brought Irish land and people into a British world. Second, it considers scientific culture and an emergent creole landowning elite as mutually constitutive: while an ideology of improvement justified Protestant rule, prerogatives of elite sociability as well as imperatives of political economy shaped institutions such as the Dublin Philosophical Society (founded 1683) and the Dublin Society (founded 1731). Third, it considers Ireland as home to multiple scientific communities embedded in British, European, and trans-Atlantic intellectual, religious, and professional networks. Not simply a tool of empire, science reflected and contributed to the complexities of Ireland's social and political situation on the eve of Enlightenment as an Atlantic colony and a British province.
This monograph will trace the construction of an idea of population as an object of scientific knowledge and political intervention by looking at the long-term impact of economic and political ideas, quantification, and the new science on discussions of and interventions in demographic phenomena from the early Tudor period through Malthus's Essay on the Principle of Population.