CfP: BSHS Panel on Science and Connoisseurship

Call for Papers: Session proposal organised by Michael Bycroft and Alex Wragge-Morley
British Society for the History of Science Annual Conference, 6-9 July 2017
Science and Connoisseurship: New Perspectives.

This session seeks to open up new directions in the growing field of research examining the connections between science and connoisseurship. Historians have generally examined these connections by focusing on well-recognised moments in the emergence of 'art' as a category in European thought, for instance by revealing the role of the Royal Society of London in providing an institutional foundation for the arts in the late 17th- and early 18th centuries, or by examining the appropriation of artistic discourses and practices by scientific practitioners in the Italian Renaissance. However, we would like to open up the field to new lines of inquiry, reflecting recent developments in historiography and theory.
These could include: 1. What can we learn by studying practices for assessing the quality of material things, including art objects, gemstones, scientific instruments, military equipment and consumer goods? 2. Was connoisseurship an embodied discipline? To what extent (if ever) were embodied practices for assessing art objects abandoned? 3. Why did medics play such a crucial role in the emergence of connoisseurial practices? 4. What can be done to combine the history of connoissership with the history of regulatory institutions, from the Bureau de Commerce in eighteenth-century France to the FDA in twentieth-century America? 5. Which sciences drew on the practices of connoisseurship? Historians often look at medicine and natural history in the context of connoisseurial practices. But what about 'harder' sciences such as mathematics, physics, astronomy and chemistry? And what about the human sciences? 6. To what extent did practices for evaluting works of art inform the sciences in non-European contexts? Do questions about the connections between science and connoisseurship depend on European understandings of the disciplinary distinctions between art and science? 7. Were the practices of connoisseurship implicated in the emergence of 'scientific' theories of race? 8. Did connoisseurial practices play a significant role in the sciences of the 19th and 20th centuries?

If you are interested in participating in this panel, please send a paper abstract of no more than 250 words and a brief bio to either/both Michael Bycroft ( or Alex Wragge-Morley ( by 10 January 2017 at the latest. This will give us time to put the final session together ahead of the BSHS's final deadline of 19 January.