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A History of the Modern Fact


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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments Introduction 1: The Modern Fact, the Problem of Induction, and Questions of Method 2: Accommodating Merchants: Double-Entry Bookkeeping, Mercantile Expertise, and the Effect of Accuracy 3: The Political Anatomy of the Economy: English Science and Irish Land 4: Experimental Moral Philosophy and the Problems of Liberal Governmentality 5: From Conjectural History to Political Economy 6: Reconfiguring Facts and Theory: Vestiges of Providentialism in the New Science of Wealth 7: Figures of Arithmetic, Figures of Speech: The Problem of Induction in the 1830s Notes Bibliography Index

About the Author

Mary Poovey has recently retired from her position as Samuel Rudin University Professor in the Humanities at New York University. She is the author of numerous books, including A History of the Modern Fact: Problems of Knowledge in the Sciences of Wealth and Society and Genres of the Credit Economy: Mediating Value in Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Britain.


Poovey (English, New York Univ.) defines the modern fact as systematic knowledge that is derived from the theoretical interpretation of observed particulars, i.e., numbers. This distinction between description (numbers) and interpretation has not always been made, and in this work Poovey is interested in how numbers came to be seen as value-free and impartial while the theories used to interpret them are widely understood to be influenced by social and political factors. From the development of double-entry bookkeeping in the late 16th century to the early use of statistics in the 1830s, Poovey focuses on the history of wealth and economics in Britain. During this period numerical representations became an increasingly important vehicle for producing knowledge and displaying mercantile credibility and virtue and ultimately economic and social prestige. The modern fact is a pioneering epistemological designation, and this book is an important contribution to the history of science and thought as well as literary and cultural criticism. Written mainly for the scholar, this book is recommended for large public libraries with research collections and academic libraries strong in the social sciences.‘Jim Woodman, Boston Athenaeum

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