HPS Colloquia 2015 - 2016

image of doorway with skeleton

The colloquium meets generally three times per quarter on Thursdays at 4:30
in the Lane History Building, Room 307, unless noted below.


  • poster for Ren of Letters workshop Renaissance of Letters Workshop

    May 13 - 14th, 9am-5pm
    Stanford Humanities Center, Levinthal Hall

    organized by Professor Paula Findlen and Suzanne Sutherland (Middle Tennessee State). Speakers include:

    *Brian Brege (Stanford lecturer)

    *Bill Connell (Seton Hall University)

    *Filippo De Vivo (Birbeck College, University of London)

    *Tamar Herzig (Tel Aviv University):

    *Rosemary Lee (University of Virginia )

    *Jeff Miner (Western Kentucky)

    *Meredith Ray (University of Delaware)

    *Sarah Ross (Boston College)

    *Deanna Shemek (UC Santa Cruz)

    *Roberto Vetrugno (University of Pavia)

    with a panel by Stanford graduate students Rachel Midura, Chris Bacich and Demetrius Loufas

    The complete program

    Co-sponsored by the Humanities Center, the Department of History, The Kratter Fund, Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and Middle Tennessee State.


  • Palm Trees Robert Batchelor, Georgia Southern University

    The Trouble with World Orders - Maps and Enlightenment in the Early Modern Pacific”

    Abstract: Recent political discourse has seen a return to ideas about "world order" and "worlding" as modes of historical understanding. In terms of East Asia and the Pacific, this approach is often associated with John Fairbank and the landmark volume of essays The Chinese World Order (1968). Maps have often been used as evidence of such worlding—as in James Ackerman’s concept of the imperial map—both as tools for defining a world picture and for helping to advance the frontiers of empires and civilizations. But in the seventeenth and eighteenth century Pacific basin, certain maps were also tools for thinking about the nature of exchange and entropy, highlighting conceptual lacuna rather than putting forward coherent wholes. Using primarily eighteenth-century examples from China, the Philippines and Japan, a comparative argument is put forward that a different kind of mapping emerged in early modern East Asia related to broader patterns of change in the Pacific. While drawing upon older traditions of trade routes and tributary exchange relations between islands depicted on Song and Ming Dynasty maps, these new maps largely focused on how exchange took place and the uncertainties involved. They were often objects of exchange themselves and staged in their creation new kinds of cross-cultural and cross-linguistic relationships. In this way, the maps in question indicated the limitations of world order strategies simultaneously pursued at the imperial centers of the Qing, Tokugawa and Bourbon Spain and the blindness these centralizing strategies produced in regard to processes of change.


    Author Bio: Robert Batchelor is the author of London: The Selden Map and the Making of a Global City, 1549-1689 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2014) and rediscovered the Bodleian Library's Selden Map. He is currently working on two interrelated digital humanities projects—the game Fujian Trader and the Selden Map Atlas—as well as a book entitled Pacific Light about the Enlightenment in the Pacific.

    4:30pm Monday, May 16, 2016

    History Room 307

    Co-sponsored with History Department and CEAS


  • Three events on Science, Religion, and Democracy co-sponsored by the McCoy Family Center for Ethics in Society, the Political Theory Workshop and the Department of Religious Studies:

    All to be held at the Stanford Humanities Center

    Avishai Margalit, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
    5:30pm, Feb 25th, 2016 and
    Feb 26th, 10am-12pm
    Abstract and poster

    Peter Gordon, Harvard University
    March 15th, 3-5pm
    Abstract and poster

    Paul Weithman, Notre Dame
    April 14th, 5:30pm, and
    April 15, 10-12pm
    Abstract and poster

    Franklin I. Gamwell, University of Chicago Divinity School
    May 26th, 3:00pm, and
    May 27th 1:15pm
    Abstract and Poster


Previous events of the year

  • Gendered Innovations iGIANTS Tech Roundtable, by invitation

    History Building 200 Room 307

    10am - 2pm, Sept 29, 2015
    and Feb 26, 2016


  • Michael Hunter, University of London

    The Image of Restoration Science: The Frontispiece to Thomas Sprat’s History of the Royal Society (1667)

    History Building 200, room 307

    4:30pm, October 6, 2015


  • Workshop: Gender as a Research Variable for Health Research, by invitation

    History Building 200 Room 307

    October 15, 1pm - 5pm
    October 16, 9am - 11am


  • Enlightenment, Ethnography and Empire: Prince Maximilian Wied-Neuwied's American Expeditions

    Peter Hanns Reill, UCLA


    "Enlightenment, Ethnography and Empire: Prince Maximilian Wied-Neuwied's American Expeditions"

    History Building 200, room 307

    4:30pm, October 29, 2015



  • Nico Wey-Gomez, Cal Tech

    "Columbus's Other Worlds: Faith, Science, and the Invention of a New Continent (1498)"

    History Building 200, room 203

    4:30pm, Nov. 5, 2015

    Detail of the South American coastline explored by Columbus. From the world chart attributed to the pilot and cosmographer Juan de la Cosa (1500).
    Detail of the South American coastline explored by Columbus. From the world chart attributed to the pilot and cosmographer Juan de la Cosa (1500)

    Abstract: On his third voyage in 1498, Columbus reached the mouth of the Orinoco River in South America. While he insisted that this was 'the end of the Orient', he still understood that he had reached a continental landmass unknown to Europeans. He also decided that the world was not round after all, and that this continent harbored the Garden of Eden. This lecture considers the politically motivated interaction between theology and natural knowledge in Columbus's account of the third voyage.

  • Andrew Mendelsohn, Queen Mary College, University of London

    "Learning in Public: Physicians, Barber-Surgeons, Lawyers, Housewives, Councilors, Neighbors in Early Modern German Communities"

    noon, November 18, 2015
    Building 260 room 252

    Co-sponsored with the CMEMS workshop


  • Evelyn Fox Keller, MIT, and Suppes Visiting Scholar to our program, Jan - March, 2016

    "From Gene Action to Reactive Genomes"

    History Building 200, room 307

    12- 1:30pm. Feb. 2, 2016


  • François Regourd, Université Paris

    "Medical Innovations and French Learned Institutions: Americanization in the Eighteenth Century"

    History Building 200, room 30

    12- 1:30pm. Feb. 8, 2016

    Abstract: An international meeting organized by French and Peruvian institutions focusing on the Processes of Americanization in Early Modern History of Science and Knowledge took place in Lima in April 2014. This meeting was organized in the wake of a wide debate on the idea of "Americanization" recently initiated and developed by Serge Gruzinski and a team of researchers in History, Anthropology and History of Arts, from the "Mondes Américains" Research Center in Paris (CNRS, Paris 1 Sorbonne University and Paris-Ouest Nanterre University). This lecture will examine the main points arising in this context, focusing in particular on the case of innovations in medicine between America and French learned institutions in the Eighteenth Century.

  • Vivian Nutton, University College London

    "Beyond the Galenic Canon: Pharmacology and Culture in Second and Third Century Rome"

    February 22, 2016, 5:15- 6:30pm

    Building 110, Room 112

    Reception followed by 5:15pm talk

    Co-sponsored by the Classics Department

    Abstract and more information



  • Spike Bucklow, University of Cambridge

    "John Donne's Melancholic Portrait and The Paston Treasure"

    February 24, 2016, 6-8pm

    History Building 200, room 302

    co-sponsored by CMEMS, please RSVP for dinner * *

    - Pre circulated paper here -

    Abstract: This large (165cm x 246cm) still-life pronk-vanitas by an unknown Dutch artist was restored at the Hamilton Kerr Institute. It is now back at the Norwich Castle Museum where a major exhibition is in the early stages of planning. One of the items featured in the painting is also in Norwich Castle Museum, others are in the Rijksmuseum, Amsterdam and the Prinsenhof, Delft.
    The patron, Sir Robert Paston (1631-83), was a member of the family whose personal letters are the oldest surviving in the English language. He was a prominent Royalist, a founding member of the Royal Society and a friend of Sir Thomas Browne. His politics led to a rapid decline in the family's fortunes and his interest in science led him to employ an alchemist to make the Philosophers' Stone in a vain attempt to avoid bankruptcy. The painting shows a small selection of his treasures, the wholesale disposal of which is well-documented.
    I have just embarked on research into the painting, its contents and patron. I am attracted to the subject as it throws light on relationships between the medieval and modern worldviews. For example, the perspective on the tabletop is purposefully distorted and the globe is turned to display the presence of China, the Pacific and America. I would like to explore some interesting parallels between Robert Paston's world and our own world. My approach will be demonstrated with reference to another early modern painting, a portrait of John Donne.


  • Chris Smeenk, Western Ontario

    "Gaining Access to the Early Universe"

    March 3, 4:30pm

    History room 205

    Abstract: Theories allow us to use accessible data to answer questions about other domains. In the initial stages of inquiry, a theory is often accepted based on its promise for extending our epistemic reach in this sense. Using theory to gain access to unobserverable phenomena poses an obvious risk of circularity: the theory specifies dependencies that hold between data and the target phenomena, and the data provide evidence when interpreted in light of the theory. How does the successful use of the theory to gain access support the theory itself? Demanding strong evidence at the outset, to even accept a theory as a starting point for inquiry, would be counter-productive. Detailed evidence for the theory can best be obtained by exploiting the theory in ongoing research. I will argue that physicists often accept a theory as the basis for research in this sense, and consider how they respond to the risk of circularity. The crucial question regards whether the fundamental assumptions of the theory can be subjected to further tests. These tests are needed to justify taking a theory to capture the fundamental quantities and physical laws, rather than being merely compatible with a given body of data. I will consider how these general questions are reflected in early universe cosmology. I will argue that there are two distinctive obstacles to testing inflationary cosmology: (1) lack of sufficient theoretical constraints (“anything goes”); (2) lack of independent observational and experimental access. The second point reflects our practical limitations. I take the first point, however, as grounds for drawing a distinction between inflation and earlier physical theories: eternal inflation, in particular, undercuts the possibility of subjecting the fundamental assumptions of the theory to further tests.


  • Bernard Geoghegan, Humboldt University, "Techniques of Mediation" as part of the Stanford Humanities Center Geballe Workshop

    "The Family as Machine: Cybernetic Kinship in Postwar America"

    Co-sponsored by Stanford Humanities Center and STS

    Monday, March 7, 4:15 - 6pm

    Stanford Humanities Center


  • Brad Bouley, Pennsylvania State

    "Not by Bread Alone: Meat, Murder, and Warfare in Early Modern Italy"

    Building 260, room 252

    Co-sponsored with the CMEMS workshop

    noon, March 9, 2016

    Abstract: According to several pamphlets issued in the 1640s, during food shortages caused by the War of the Castro (1639-1644), butchers working near the Pantheon in Rome began to commit unspeakable acts: they killed and ground up human beings to put into their sausage. Although rich in detail, much of the evidence from these pamphlets cannot be corroborated by other sources. Rather than reflecting a true criminal act, then, this story might represent a cautionary tale motivated by widespread fear that a quasi-luxury product—meat and, especially, pork sausage—was becoming both contaminated and unavailable. Using this pamphlet along with trial documents, edicts, and other contemporary diaries, this paper will present a prospectus for a new book-length project which seeks to explore the themes of food production, warfare, propaganda, and the connection between eating and identity in early modern Italy.


  • Peter Taylor, University of Massachusetts, Boston

    "What to do if we think that researchers have overlooked a significant issue for 100 years? The case of quantitative genetics and underlying heterogeneity"

    March 29, 2016

    Co-sponsored by the Ecology and Evolution Group in the Biology Department

  • Digital Perspectives on Imperial Chinese Political History, with Hilde de Weerdt, Leiden University

    4:15PM, April 12, 2016

    CESTA, Wallenberg Hall, 4th floor


  • Universalis Cosmographia, the Waldseemuller wall map dated 1507, by the Italian Amerigo Vespucci Rasmus Grønfeldt Winther, University of California, Santa Cruz

    "When Maps Become the World"

    April 21, 2016, 4:30pm

    History Building Room 307

    Abstract: A simple street map can speak volumes. It can guide you to the museum, to the nearest park or to your friend's house. But who designed and produced your map? According to which data, techniques, and conventions, and for whom, was it made? In our mundane map use, we may not care to reflect on such questions. Map thinkers, however, include geographers, philosophers, historians, and others who analogize knowledge practices to mapping and maps. This book is a sustained exploration of map thinking: How are maps similar to – and constitutive of – our theoretical and practical knowledge? What does this tell us about how we build and use scientific representations? Which heuristic tools does pluralistic map thinking suggest for de-reifying abstractions and dichotomies?



  • Crystal Hall, Bowdoin College

    "Creating an Early Modern Database for Galileo's Library"

    Friday, April 22, 2016, noon

    History Building Room 307

    Please RSVP to rrogers for lunch

    Co-sponsored by the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School, Fellow Hannah Marcus and CMEMS

    Abstract: Can a digital database recreate the ways in which Galileo Galileo organized and used his modest collection of books? Late Renaissance readers did not organize or access their books according to the same descriptors upon which digital tools typically rely: authors' names, publication dates, titles, or single genre labels. Since Galileo compared unpleasant reading to perusing a cabinet of curiosities and delightful reading to visiting a museum gallery, this presentation suggests ways in which an appropriate database for his library should become more than the infrastructure for an archive for books. Examples drawn from the poetry, plays, and philosophical treatises that Galileo read will show the ways in which digital humanities tools can create other ways to identify texts in order to assemble a database that represents process via its organization of content.


  • Bellini True Cross Procession Venice 15th century Michael Alan Ryan, University of New Mexico

    "Discerning Deceit in Late Medieval Venice: On Alchemy and Cristoforo di Parigi"

    4:30pm, April 28, 2016
    History Department, Building 200 room 307

    Co-sponsored with the CMEMS and the Theoretical Perspectives on Middle Ages workshop

    abstract: Fourteenth- and fifteenth-century Venice, a premier mercantile and intellectual crossroads, was a cosmopolitan urban center that attracted individuals from all parts of transalpine Europe and the Mediterranean Basin. In such a world, unscrupulous individuals could--and did--flock to the city to profit. Using the case of the shadowy individual who called himself 'Cristoforo di Parigi,' an alchemist purportedly exiled by the leaders of the Republic for practicing his discipline in the Republic, Michael A. Ryan will discuss the discernment of fraud in late medieval Venice, as well as the liminal place that alchemy occupied within medieval culture writ large. This work-in-progress comprises part of a larger book-length manuscript that investigates the parameters of magical fraud and alchemical charlatanry in Venice prior to the establishment of the Santo Uffizio in the mid-sixteenth century.


  • "Shift CTRL: New Perspectives on Computing and New Media"
    organized by Tom Mullaney and Ben Allen (Modern Thought and Literature)

    May 6-7, 2016

    Stanford Humanities Center, Levinthal Hall 9am - 6pm


Previous Year's HPST Colloquia


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