Sarah Basham

Ph.D. Candidate Department of History University of British Columbia

2016 to 2017
Dissertation Writing Fellow

Rethinking the Ontology of Chinese Encyclopedias: The Life and Times of Treatise on Military Preparedness (1621)

For both Europe and China, historians of science have highlighted the social character of the production of scientific and technical knowledge in the early modern period. Other scholars have studied information management and reading practices in this period. However, none have holistically addressed how reading, writing, and social practices collectively produced technical knowledge in books in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. My project offers Mao Yuanyi‰Ûªs (1594‰ÛÒ1640) Treatise on Military Preparedness (Wu bei zhi, 1621), a military encyclopedia, as a case study of Ming (1368‰ÛÒ1644) practices of technical knowledge production. I argue that an early modern Chinese technical text is a product of specific social practices of its author within an expert community and the reading practices of its author and readers. These practices collectively produce technical meaning and challenge the hegemony of European knowledge practices in conversations on the history of technology in the early modern world.