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Henrique Leitão awarded an ERC Advanced grant to study the rutters

Henrique Leitão, Principal Investigator at the Interunivsersity Centre for the History of Science and Technology, Professor at the History and Philosophy of Science Department at Faculty of Sciences, Lisbon University and a Medea-Chart team member, won an ERC Advanced grant to study rutters.

Abstract of the project

Early modern nautical rutters (sailing directions) are the earliest Western documents that testify to the stableand regular lived experience of traversing the earth’s oceans on a global, planetary scale. Nautical rutters (andship’s logbooks) are technical documents that collect and analyse critical information for the successfulaccomplishment of oceanic navigation. This includes elements of strict nautical nature (courses, distances, andlatitudes), as well as information on oceanography (currents and tides), meteorology (winds and storms),geography, geophysics (magnetic declination) and the natural world. Their unique value lies not only in thefact that they are exceptional historical repositories of information about the world on a planetary scale but,more importantly, that they document the emergence of global concepts about the earth. In fact, no earlierdocuments contain information about the earth on a comparable worldwide scale. Thus, their historical valueis peerless. Using these exceptional, yet poorly known sources, the main objective of this project is to write anarrative of the scaling up of a scientific description of the earth in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries,from the lived experience of travelling and observing the earth in long-distance sea voyages. As a preliminarytask, a systematic search, identification and classification of the information contained in early modern Iberianrutters and ship’s logbooks will be performed. This will be followed by an extensive multidisciplinary studyaiming at radically improving our present knowledge of the historical process that led to the formation ofglobal concepts about the earth.

Photo credit: Nuno Ferreira Santos, jornal Público

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