The project entitled “Commerce, colonies, civilization: global perspective of a European ‘long Enlightenment’ (France, Britain, Central Europe) 1750-1850” is focused on studying the “commercial Enlightenment” and its implications as far as the conceptualization of global history and the relations with non-European peoples, cultures and states are concerned.
The “commercial Enlightenment” is an original definition meaning a specific aspect of the European Enlightenment culture which considered economic and social progress – even with its deficiencies – as the central factor of a civilized and modern life for mankind.
Commerce, long-distance trade, commercial expansion, the power of scientific knowledge and its capacity to inspire that “useful knowledge” necessary, in technology, manufacture, transports, production of consumption goods, for improving the human condition, are the core tenets of the “commercial Enlightenment” and its vision of an expanding European civilization and its power to communicate its own values to other societies and cultures through intercourse and exchange.
The project aims at exploring various aspects of how the “commercial Enlightenment” shaped the perception and representation of non-European societies and cultures, with particular regard to the relationships between Europe and China, the country of the world with which the relation of the West changed in the deepest and most comprehensive way between the end of the eighteenth and the first half of the nineteenth century.
From this point of view, the project intend to show how the “commercial Enlightenment” represented a link between the Enlightenment reformist, scientist, rationalist culture and the the liberal worldview of the nineteenth century.
One of the goal of the project is the production of a vast collection of primary sources in digital format concerning the relationship between Europe and China from the mid-seventeenth to the mid-nineteenth century.