Michael Wintroub takes as the focus of his research what Mauss has called “total social phenomena”—that is, phenomena in which religious, scientific, legal, moral, aesthetic and economic institutions find simultaneous expression. He is concerned with the mediations and connections between these various dimensions of human activity and how they develop over time and over space. His sources are rituals, ceremonies, festivities, and technical practices; words, poems, pictures, rhetorical rules and classificatory schemes; ships, sailors, poets, courts and kings; coins, artefacts, scientific instruments and institutions. His approach is micro-historical, attending to specific techniques, dispositions, performances, encounters and networks, while also stressing questions of genealogy, mobility and the longue durée. Examples of this work can be found in peer reviewed journal articles in publications such as the American Historical Review, the Renaissance Quarterly, ISIS, Annales: Histoire, Sciences Sociales, French Historical Studies, and the British Journal for the History of Science, or in either of his two books: A Savage Mirror: Power, Identity and Knowledge in Early Modern France(Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2006), and The Voyage of Thought: Navigating Knowledge Across the Sixteenth Century World (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2017), awarded the Pickstone Prize for the best book in the History of Science published in 2017-2018 by the British Society for the History of Science .
Research Expertise and Interest
history of science, cultural history, early modern history, History of Exploration and Empire, Material and Visual Culture, STS, American politics