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.” A case study for a special issue of the European History Quarterly 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 16th to 18th centuries” in Philip Beeley and Christopher Hollings, Beyond the Academy: The Practice of Mathematics 1600-1850 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2021)

Works in Progress

A Floating Academy: Commerce and Calculation in the Age of Sail. 
This second book-length project centres on the Prince de Conti, a French merchant ship that embarked on a trading venture to India in 1754. Schotte draws upon a cache of archival documents fortuitously preserved in the midst of the Seven Years War. In addition to revealing new insights into the everyday lives of the sailors, merchants, and family members who were caught up in the trade and conflict of the period, this particular archive contains a significant collection of mathematical documents. These ink-spattered student worksheets, hand-copied textbooks, and records of mid-voyage observations and computations, provide unparalleled evidence of how complex new mathematics was not only taught but also applied at sea. Taken together, they offer a rare glimpse into the type of collaborative mathematical work that took place on a true “floating academy” in the Age of Revolution.

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.