The Early Modern Commons

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Recent Posts

What Did 17th Century Food Taste Like?

12 November 2017

Diego Velázquez, Old Woman Frying Eggs, c. 1618, National Gallery of Scotland. As the official portraitist for the Spanish monarchy at the height of its glory, Diego Velázquez...

Nassim Nicholas Taleb vs. Historians

22 September 2017

When I was a grad student in history, I was trained to burrow into tiny corners of the past and "unpack" everything I found there. In essence, history was a hoarder's attic, and my...

Urine, Phosphorus, and the Philosopher's Stone

26 June 2017

Joseph Wright of Derby, The Alchemist Discovers Phosphorus, 1771 (detail). In 1681, the English writer John Evelyn covered his face with a glowing material, newly invented...

Why Are There So Many 17th Century Paintings of Monkeys Getting Drunk?

4 May 2017

On cold Friday in 1660, Samuel Pepys encountered two unpleasant surprises. "At home found all well," he wrote in his diary, "but the monkey loose, which did anger me, and so I did strike...