Regulation and Intellectual Change at the Paris Goldsmiths’ Guild, 1660-1740

In: Journal of Early Modern History
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  • 1 University of Warwick
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Economic historians have shown that the regulations of craft guilds were a source of innovation rather than inertia in the economy of early modern Europe. Historians of science have shown that craftsmen contributed to the scientific revolution in the same time and place. But very little is known about the role of guild regulation in intellectual (as opposed to social, political and economic) change. This paper shows that regulation went hand-in-hand with intellectual change at the Paris guild of goldsmiths in the decades around 1700. In this period the wardens of the guild developed sophisticated techniques for organizing and disseminating their large archive of legal documents. They also published two books on the natural history of precious stones that broke with the learned tradition of writing on this topic. The reform of the archive and the reform of natural history were undertaken by the same goldsmiths, for similar reasons, using analogous literary techniques.

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