Leibniz Discovers Asia: Social Networking in the Republic of Letters
Who are the nations of Europe, and where did they come from? Early modern people were as curious about their origins as we are today. Lacking twenty-first-century DNA research, seventeenth-century scholars turned to language—etymology, vocabulary, and even grammatical structure—for evidence. The hope was that, in puzzling out the relationships between languages, the relationships between nations themselves would emerge, and on that basis one could determine the ancestral homeland of the nations that presently occupied Europe.
In Leibniz Discovers Asia, Michael C. Carhart explores this early modern practice by focusing on philosopher, scientist, and mathematician Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, who developed a vast network of scholars and missionaries throughout Europe to acquire the linguistic data he needed. The success of his project was tied to the Jesuit search for an overland route to China, whose itinerary would take them through the nations from whom Leibniz wanted language samples. Drawing on Leibniz's extensive correspondence with the members of this network, Carhart gives us access to the philosopher's scintillating discussions about astronomy and mapping; ethnology and missionary work; the contest of the Asiatic empires of Muscovy, Persia, the Ottoman, and China for control of the Caucasus, the steppes, and the Far East; and above all, language, as the best indicator of the prehistoric genealogy of the myriad peoples from Central Asia to Western Europe. [From the publisher]
Johns Hopkins University Press
Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646-1716), Language, Asia, Scholarship
Asian History | European History | Linguistics
Carhart, Michael C., "Leibniz Discovers Asia: Social Networking in the Republic of Letters" (2019). History Faculty Bookshelf. 45.