This volume is the result of a conference, “Transfer of Knowledge in the Iberian Colonial World” held in September 2013 at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, Germany (MPIWG). The conference was the outcome of various long-term collaborative research projects. Jürgen Renn, director at the MPIWG, initiated the first cooperation with the Fundación Canaria Orotava de Historia de la Ciencia of Tenerife (Spain), especially with its directors José Montesinos and Sergio Toledo Prats. In the collaborative research project “Humboldt Project: Open Digital Research Library” researchers from both institutions published works dealing with political and scientific explorations of the Canary Islands, mainly during the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. This project also established a database of works and images, as well as libraries holding the works digitized during this project (http://fundacionorotava.es/humboldt).
The conference was the third in a series organized by the Fundación Orotava in the frame of the project “Ciencia y Cultura entre dos Mundos,” held previously in La Gomera (Canarias 2007) and Cholula (Mexico 2010) and organized in collaboration with the Consejo Superior de Investigaciones Científicas (CSIC) of Spain. The Berlin conference was part of the ongoing research project at the MPWIG “Globalization of Knowledge,” which studies the globalization of knowledge in history to establish an epistemological framework that enables the systematic analysis of historical processes of technology transfer, the spread of epistemic frameworks, the dynamic relation between local and global knowledge traditions and the globalization of modern science. An edited volume, The Globalization of Knowledge in History (Edition Open Access, Berlin) was published in 2012, making visible the potential of this approach to history of science and global history, and providing the first results of the research undertaken in the last ten years.
The conference focused on concepts of knowledge transfer in the history of (scientific) knowledge in the Iberian world. The transfer of knowledge was considered as a process of globalization in its own right. In the Iberian colonial world, traditions of knowledge from all over Europe, Africa, Asia and America converged. The aim of the conference was to trace new bodies of knowledge that emerged in philosophy, natural history and religion to find out how foods and drugs were circulated, and to explore representations of the ‘exotic’ in the writings and paintings that travelled with actors and objects between different spaces.
The publication of some of the papers given at the conference represents the continuation of the cooperation between the Fundación Orotava, the CSIC and the MPIWG. The publication in Edition Open Access maintains the idea behind the Humboldt Project of making scientific results accessible to a broader public, and is an entry point of the MPIWG’s contribution to the research program “Convivencia. Iberian to Global Dynamics (500–1750).”
The editor would like to express his special thanks to Sergio Luis Toledo Prats, the director of the Fundación Orotava, who helped to make the conference and the cooperation possible in a period when the public funding of his institution was endangered. I am very grateful to Jürgen Renn, director at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, who hosted the conference and encouraged the publication of its results in Edition Open Access of the Max Planck Research Library. Ana Simões and Kostas Gavroglu submitted the publication. Both provided invaluable advice during the publication process. I would like to thank Stefanie Gänger, Florike Egmond, Peter Mason and Antonio Barrera-Osorio who attended the conference in September 2013 and who contributed to the discussions. I would like to express special thanks to Ross Fletcher, Caroline Frank and Melina Vanni-Gonzalez, who helped in copyediting the articles. My thanks go also to Georg Pflanz, who took care of all technical and layouting issues, and Lindy Divarci, who managed the project during the publication process.