The Enlightenment in Practice: Swedish Travellers and Knowledge about the Metal Trades

  • Göran Rydén Uppsala University
Keywords: Travelling, Enlightenment, Economic thinking, Technological development, Metal Trades, Progress


Ever since the publication of the Encyclopédie, in the decades after mid-eighteenth century, there has been an on-going debate about the implications of the metaphor of enlightenment, mainly based on themes discussed in Diderot’s and d’Alembert’s work. Sadly, however, one major field has been left outside; scholars have dealt with two branches of the tree of knowledge, science and the liberal arts, but ignored the branch of mechanical arts. This article takes a starting-point in the reintroduction of political economy, with division of labour, and technology into an assessment of the Enlightenment. It has the ambition of discussing the process whereby progress became a central feature of eighteenth-century thinking, as well as relating this to a discussion about travelling to other places. It deals with Swedish travellers going to Britain, and central Europe, to view differently organised trades with elaborate division of labour, more skilled artisans, fitted
into a commercial economy.