If the vibrancy on display in Thinking in the Past Tense is any indication, the study of intellectual history is enjoying an unusually fertile period in both Europe and North America. This collection of conversations with leading scholars brims with insights from such diverse fields as the history of science, the reception of classical antiquity, book history, global philology, and the study of material culture. The eight practitioners interviewed here specialize in the study of the early modern period (c. 1400–1800), for the last forty years a crucial laboratory for testing new methods in intellectual history. The lively conversations don’t simply reveal these scholars’ depth and breadth of thought; they also disclose the kind of trade secrets that historians rarely elucidate in print. Thinking in the Past Tense offers students and professionals alike a rare tactile understanding of the practice of intellectual history. Here is a collectively drawn portrait of the historian’s craft today.
"In an age dominated by the sound bite and the tweet, it can be hard to resist the melancholy conclusion that the humanities are in crisis and that scholarship no longer beckons as a spiritual vocation. Thinking in the Past Tense offers reason for hope. In this intimate gallery of portraits we come face to face with eight distinguished practitioners of early modern intellectual history, and we are reminded once again of the traditional virtues of erudition and philological precision that continue to sustain this field even at a time when historical understanding seems under siege. - Peter E. Gordon, Harvard University
Introduction Ann M. Blair Lorraine Daston Benjamin Elman Anthony Grafton Jill Kraye Peter N. Miller Jean-Louis Quantin Quentin Skinner Acknowledgments Index