Enlightened reformism in Iberian culture and science

Authored by: Hugh Cagle , Matthew Crawford

The Iberian World

Print publication date:  September  2019
Online publication date:  September  2019

Print ISBN: 9781138921016
eBook ISBN: 9780429283697
Adobe ISBN:


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From Paris toward the end of 1675—in response to dramatic Portuguese losses in Asia and the Atlantic—the diplomat Duarte Ribeiro de Macedo anxiously penned a policy brief to his peers back home in Lisbon. Macedo had spent the last several years in France, where he was Portuguese envoy to the court of Louis XIV. It was perhaps through his contacts at court that he learned not only of the Royal Society of London but also of its journal, the Philosophical Transactions. The London institution, its ambitious publishing program, and the contents of those pages deeply impressed Macedo. They also worried him. The capacity of the Royal Society and its journal to propagate new and useful knowledge about the inner workings of the natural world seemed, to Macedo at least, to strengthen the hand of the English at the very time when Portugal’s empire, especially in Asia, was being torn from its grasp. Should his countrymen not act quickly, Macedo argued, Portugal was certain to lose out. A century later, in 1779, it seemed as though Macedo’s fears had come to pass. That year, in his inaugural address for Lisbon’s Academia Real das Ciências, Padre Teodoro de Almeida insisted that his nation’s failure to create institutions that fostered the sciences had led to the continued decline of Portugal and its empire. Almeida argued that the creation of Lisbon’s new Academia Real, modelled as it was on the Royal Society, would help Portugal regain its proper place among European imperial powers (BNP Res. Cod. 11377, ff. 63-90v; BNP Res. Cod. 11463, ff. 133-145v).

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