History of Science meets Book History

Student manuscript (Wm. Spink, c.1697-1731)
Student manuscript (Wm. Spink, c.1697-1731) Image Credit: NMM

Sailing School: Navigating Science and Skill, 1550-1800 (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2019)

Recent and Forthcoming Articles

“Sailors, States, and the Creation of Nautical Knowledge,” in  A World at Sea: Maritime Practices in Global History, 1500-1900 (University of Pennsylvania Press), edited by Nathan Perl-Rosenthal and Lauren Benton. In this chapter, Schotte argues that navigation should be seen as a knowledge-making practice, and highlights how four nation-states, specifically England, the Netherlands, France and Russia, responded to a set of common problems with remarkably different scientific and technical solutions.

“Nautical Manuals and Ships’ Instruments, 1550-1800: Lessons in Two and Three Dimensions.” An invited chapter on ship’s instruments for The Routledge Research Companion to Marine and Maritime Worlds, 1400-1800 (Routledge, 2020), edited by Claire Jowitt, Craig Lambert, and Steve Mentz.

“Distilling Water, Distilling Data: Questionnaires in Dutch East India Company Record-keeping.” Intellectual History Review 32.3 (July 2022): 531-551. Special issue edited by Richard Yeo and Daniel Midena. A case study for a special issue of IHR devoted to the history of the questionnaire. In this analysis of careful reports back to a central authority, we see how the men in charge of day-to-day operations shaped an innovative water-purification technology–and ultimately caused its failure.

“Navigational Exams in the Early Modern Period” in Philip Beeley and Christopher Hollings, Beyond the Academy: The Practice of Mathematics 1600-1850 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2024)

Works in Progress

Sailing for the French: Labour, Trade, and Mobility in the Indian Ocean World, a research project funded by a 5-year SSHRC Insight Grant. This programme includes both a historical GIS database and a related book-length microhistory project centring on the Prince de Conti, a French merchant ship that sailed on a trading venture to India in 1754-56. The project draws on French East India Company records along with a cache of fortuitously preserved “Prize Papers” to trace the training of skilled European and Asian mariners, with the goal of understanding how they applied complex mathematics at sea. It will produce an innovative comparative European and Indian Ocean maritime history by creating new visualizations of labour and commerce while foregrounding issues of race and colonialism in French maritime history.

Other research interests

Globes, engineering, history of mathematics, history of education, diagrams and illustrations.

Schotte has also written on Samuel Pepys, Simon Stevin, the Baron de Lahontan, and hydrography lessons in New France.