University of Cambridge > Talks.cam > HPS History Workshop > To graze and virtue: Anders Gabriel Duhre as a virtuous maker of useful knowledge in early 18th-century Sweden

To graze and virtue: Anders Gabriel Duhre as a virtuous maker of useful knowledge in early 18th-century Sweden

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In the autumn of 1730 two groups of peasants inspected the state of the king’s meadow at Ultuna just outside Uppsala in Sweden. Had the tenant let too many animals graze the meadow, and therefore put his own short time profit before the preservation of the king’s property? One group thought so, the other thought not. At stake in these inspections was the virtue of the mathematician Anders Gabriel Duhre (1680?-1739) and of his “Laboratorium mathematico-oeconomicum”.

Duhre had been granted the lease of Ultuna in 1723, after having sent two memorials to the Swedish Diet. Its yield was to fund a Laboratorium for the making of useful mechanical knowledge and would make the Laboratorium self-sufficient. But the project was not uncontroversial and soon Duhre was drawn into an array of conflicts. Though the local court in the end deemed that the meadow had not been damaged, Duhre still lost his lease in the Diet of 1731. This and many other conflicts had affected his ability to perform as a maker of useful knowledge.

By analysing these conflicts, I show how agriculture, crafts, mathematics and mechanics converged in Duhre’s project. I show how Duhre performed a multitude of roles to make his project credible: for example those of the mathematicus, the public servant, and the responsible farmer. Duhre’s status as a knowledge maker was what was at stake when the two groups of peasants evaluated the muddy meadow and Duhre’s ultimate failure to perform these roles was what led to the end of his short-lived Laboratorium.

This talk is part of the HPS History Workshop series.

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