University of Cambridge > > Cabinet of Natural History > Enlightenment science in Surat? Interpreting the collections of Anquetil de Briancourt and family (1773–1779)

Enlightenment science in Surat? Interpreting the collections of Anquetil de Briancourt and family (1773–1779)

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  • UserSarah Easterby-Smith (University of St Andrews)
  • ClockMonday 01 February 2021, 13:00-14:00
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This paper examines the personal collection of books and scientific instruments formed by Étienne Jean Anquetil de Briancourt (1727–1793) during his residence in Surat, Gujarat. De Briancourt, younger brother of the more famous French orientalist Anquetil Duperron, was French consul at the comptoir from 1773 until 1779. Like all consuls, his official duties were concerned with the management of mercantile matters. He also interceded – somewhat dramatically – within local politics. However, an inventory of de Briancourt’s personal effects tells a very different story: together with his family, De Briancourt compiled a scholarly collection that was more characteristic of a Parisian intellectual than of a merchant living on the north-east coast of India. Working with the evidence contained in the inventory, this paper asks what it meant for a French family to compose a ‘European’ scholarly collection in a trading post such as Surat, and it examines the relationship between the de Briancourt collecting activities and the scientific aspirations of the Absolutist French state.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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