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Renaissance Craftsmen and Humanistic Scholars

Circulation of Knowledge between Portugal and Germany


Thomas Horst, Marília dos Santos Lopes and Henrique Leitão

The study of the relations between Portugal and the German-speaking countries in the 15th and 16th centuries is an intriguing topic that has attracted the interest of scholars for some decades. In recent years evidence accumulated has shown that there was still much to be known and even some large areas were still unexplored. In order to better grasp the nature of what was a complex historical phenomenon, an interdisciplinary approach to the topic turned out to be necessary by deepening the understanding of what is usually termed the circulation of knowledge. The present book shows how knowledge travels with people, with artifacts, along commercial lines, and is created and transformed by the intervention of individuals from various educational and social strata.

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Importing Knowledge: Portugal and the Scientific Culture in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century’s Germany (Marília dos Santos Lopes)


Marília dos Santos Lopes

Importing Knowledge: Portugal and the Scientific Culture in Fifteenth and Sixteenth Century’s Germany

Abstract: The paper works out the intensive relations between travelers, merchants and scholars from Portugal and the German Roman Empire from the end of the fifteenth century until the first half of the sixteenth century. Exploring some outstanding examples, it gives evidence how the German knowledge community was longing for the many new insights which Portuguese travelers had brought from all over the world, concerning its borders and outlines as well as the people they met and described. This transfer of knowledge was made possible not only through direct contact and participation, but also through the translation of travelogues and other texts concerning these New Worlds. They stood as a starting point for the remapping and reconceptualization of geography, the leading discipline and the most prominent field of knowledge at that time.

While tracing the knowledge networks in Early Modern Europe, historian Peter Burke (2000) decisively emphasizes the importance of trade and seaports in the transmission of knowledge, referring in particular to well-established business networks. In this context, Burke draws special attention to the importance of Lisbon as one of these sites for the production and dissemination of knowledge:

The phrase ‘importing knowledge’ is intended as a reminder of the importance of trade and more particularly of ports in the spread of information […]. The importance of Lisbon in the history of knowledge, especially in...

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