Antiquarianism and Intellectual Life in Europe and China, 1500-1800

Peter N. Miller and François Louis, editors
A comparative consideration of the fascination with antiquity in European and Chinese intellectual history


This book is a project in comparative history, but along two distinct axes, one historical and the other historiographical. Its purpose is to constructively juxtapose the early modern European and Chinese approaches to historical study that have been called "antiquarian." As an exercise in historical recovery, the essays in this volume amass new information about the range of antiquarian-type scholarship on the past, on nature, and on peoples undertaken at either end of the Eurasian landmass between 1500 and 1800. As a historiographical project, the book challenges the received—and often very much under conceptualized—use of the term "antiquarian" in both European and Chinese contexts. Readers will not only learn more about the range of European and Chinese scholarship on the past—and especially the material past---but they will also be able to integrate some of the historiographical observations and corrections into new ways of conceiving of the history of historical scholarship in Europe since the Renaissance, and to reflect on the impact of these European terms on Chinese approaches to the Chinese past. This comparison is a two-way street, with the European tradition clarified by knowledge of Chinese practices, and Chinese approaches better understood when placed alongside the European ones.

"This volume is the first to juxtapose the autochthonous traditions of antiquarianism of Early Modern Europe and Late Imperial China. Rather than asking only what the West might be able to learn about China, it self-consciously and quite successfully seeks to open up new perspectives on both sides of the comparison. It moreover breaks important ground in suggesting historically traceable links between evidential learning in China and European traditions of 'Herodotean' historiography."
—Lothar von Falkenhausen, University of California, Los Angeles

"This splendid collection of essays is at once a major addition to the literature on the history of scholarship in Western Europe, a burgeoning field in its own right, and a model effort at comparative cultural history . . .  The collection as a whole sheds light on areas little known even to erudite scholars."
—Anthony Grafton, Princeton University

Peter N. Miller is Dean and Professor at the Bard Graduate Center. He is the Series Editor for Cultural Histories of the Material World. 
François Louis is Associate Professor at the Bard Graduate Center.

Praise / Awards

  • "The editors of this comparative work seek to recover the Leibnizian ideal of an equal exchange by bringing together specialists in early modern Europe and in Ming-Qing China to investigate the connections between two scholarly traditions that seem—at first glance—utterly remote from each other. Under each part’s topic, the editors juxtapose chapters on China and Europe;
    it is thus up to the reader to do the work of active comparison—albeit with assistance from the book’s superb introduction and from Miller’s own exemplary essay 'Comparing Antiquarianisms:
    A View from Europe.' ... For intellectual and cultural historians of Europe, this collection has much to offer... "
    --The Journal of Modern History

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Product Details

  • 6 x 9.
  • 440pp.
  • 23 B&W illustrations.
Available for sale worldwide

  • Hardcover
  • 2012
  • Available
  • 978-0-472-11818-2

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  • $74.95 U.S.

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  • Antiquarianism, history, China, Europe