The Worldmakers reconstructs the imaginative struggles of early modern artists, philosophers, and writers to make sense of something that we take for granted: the world, imagined as a whole. Once a new, exciting, and frightening concept, “the world” was transformed in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. But how could one envision something that no one had ever seen in its totality? Moving beyond histories of globalization, this book explores how “the world” itself—variously understood as an object of inquiry, a comprehensive category, and a system of order—was self-consciously shaped by human agents. It gathers an international cast of characters, from Dutch cartographers and French philosophers to Portuguese and English poets, Ramachandran describes a history of firsts: the first world atlas, the first global epic, the first modern attempt to develop a systematic natural philosophy—all part of an effort by early modern thinkers to capture “the world” on the page.
2015 Founder’s Prize from the Sixteenth Century Society and Conference for best first manuscript across all disciplines (book subvention prize)