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The main objective of this volume of the Cambridge History of Science is to explore modern science using different frames of reference: national, transnational, international, and global. The chapters in the volume primarily analyze the history of modern science during the late-eighteenth, nineteenth, twentieth, and early twenty-first centuries. However, authors were encouraged to explore earlier periods where appropriate, especially when necessary as background. Chapters in Part II of the volume focus on particular national and regional contexts covering all parts of the world.
This chapter explores the significance of scientific surveys of national territories in the development of modern science. National surveys have necessarily been linked to the centralizing tendencies of nation-states beginning especially during the eighteenth century. The surveys were considered scientific because they used the principals and methods of empirical physical science, astronomy, and abstract mathematics to produce precise and rigorous results. Surveying and mapping of national territories fulfilled an Enlightenment desire to rationalize and bring order to nature.
Unlike other sections of this volume, which are composed of groups of countries or regions that are geographically contiguous and share general cultural affinities, this section includes regions that do not as clearly share common borders and that are culturally much more diverse. Nevertheless, common issues do exist. In general this section covers the contiguous region from Africa, across the Middle East and to South Asia. Individual chapters discuss regions that are internally very diverse, and diversity and a general openness to outside influences characterize the regions. But perhaps most important, the chapters analyze regions of the world that are seen as non-Western and that share a common heritage of having dealt with the impact of European colonialism.
The chapters in this section of the volume mainly represent major English-speaking former British colonies. One essay also includes regions in the Pacific Ocean, but there is less discussion about countries in this region because less has been written about them. This essay will primarily compare and contrast the major former British colonies but it will also mention potential future areas of research in the Pacific Ocean region. The former British colonies of Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and the United States share a common identity as settler societies, and although in the early twenty-first century, they are very diverse, traditionally they were all largely dominated by Protestant, Anglo-Saxon elites.
This volume in the highly respected Cambridge History of Science series is devoted to exploring the history of modern science using national, transnational, and global frames of reference. Organized by topic and culture, its essays by distinguished scholars offer the most comprehensive and up-to-date nondisciplinary history of modern science currently available. Essays are grouped together in separate sections that represent larger regions: Europe, Africa, the Middle East, South Asia, East and Southeast Asia, the United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Oceania, and Latin America. Each of these regional groupings ends with a separate essay reflecting on the analysis in the preceding chapters. Intended to provide a balanced and inclusive treatment of the modern world, contributors analyze the history of science not only in local, national, and regional contexts but also with respect to the circulation of knowledge, tools, methods, people, and artifacts across national borders.