A Social History of Knowledge II by Peter Burke
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Peter Burke follows up his magisterial Social History of Knowledge, picking up where the first volume left off around 1750 at the publication of the French Encyclopédie and following the story through to Wikipedia. Like the previous volume, it offers a social history (or a retrospective sociology of knowledge) in the sense that it focuses not on individuals but on groups, institutions, collective practices and general trends.

The book is divided into 3 parts. The first argues that activities which appear to be timeless - gathering knowledge, analysing, disseminating and employing it - are in fact time-bound and take different forms in different periods and places. The second part tries to counter the tendency to write a triumphalist history of the 'growth' of knowledge by discussing losses of knowledge and the price of specialization. The third part offers geographical, sociological and chronological overviews, contrasting the experience of centres and peripheries and arguing that each of the main trends of the period - professionalization, secularization, nationalization, democratization, etc, coexisted and interacted with its opposite.

As ever, Peter Burke presents a breath-taking range of scholarship in prose of exemplary clarity and accessibility. This highly anticipated second volume will be essential reading across the humanities and social sciences.


About Peter Burke

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Asa Briggs is Chancellor of the Open University and Provost of Worcester College, Oxford. Peter Burke is Professor of Cultural History at the University of Cambridge and Fellow of Emmanuel College, Cambridge.
Published April 18, 2013 by Polity. 248 pages
Genres: History, Law & Philosophy. Non-fiction

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That might be because ‘history is the state of confusion between anybody doing anything and anything happening’.(1) An oblique way of starting a review of a social history of knowledge, perhaps – but indispensable for knowing how history knows knowledge and what the knowledge history knows reveal...

Jun 18 2012 | Read Full Review of A Social History of Knowledge...