Dr Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh

Leverhulme Trust-Isaac Newton Trust Early Career Fellow
Lumley Junior Research Fellow in History, Magdalene College

My research seeks to understand how the interaction of different cultures of knowledge produced new sciences that circulated across the world in the early modern period. I am particularly interested in studying the role played by long-distance corporations, such as the Society of Jesus and the Dutch East India Company, in globalising local knowledge traditions.

In 2023, I completed my PhD, titled 'Globalising China: Jesuits, Eurasian Exchanges, and the Early Modern Sciences', in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science at the University of Cambridge. The dissertation reveals how the Manchu conquest of China in 1644 transformed the sciences across Europe. It reorients common accounts of the history of science by showing that several scientific debates typically deemed 'European' originated in China, emerging through local peoples’ interactions with Jesuit missionaries. Focusing on the Jesuit Martino Martini’s writings, my PhD explains how Chinese cultures of knowledge became valuable intellectual and political resources in Enlightenment Europe.

My postdoctoral project, supported by a Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellowship, instead, aims to examine how early modern Europeans drew on their knowledge of East Asia to make sense of the unfamiliar at the Cape of Good Hope. Almost every traveller voyaging between Europe and the East Indies spent time at the Cape, where they engaged with the Indigenous Khoekhoen, enslaved Malays, and European settlers, producing new, hybrid knowledges in the process. The project seeks to understand how new knowledge was produced through a triangular Asian-African-European arrangement.

In Autumn 2021, I was a Visiting Predoctoral Fellow in Department III at the Max Planck Institute for the History of Science in Berlin, where I led the project 'Of Soils and Stars: Jesuit Perceptions of Chinese Agricultural Practices through Calendrical Construction'. In Spring 2022, I was a Junior Fellow at the Descartes Centre at Universiteit Utrecht, where I studied early modern Dutch representations of southern Africa and its inhabitants. In June 2022, I received a Lisa Jardine Award to study the reception of Chinese astronomy at the Royal Society in London. I was a Freer Prize Fellow of the Royal Institution for the academic year 2022-23, and was twice shortlisted as a BBC New Generation Thinker, in 2023 and 2024.

Peer-reviewed journal articles

“Oriental Chronology: Chinese Astronomy and the Politics of Antiquity in Eighteenth-Century Britain,” Isis 115 (2024).

"Interesting and Uninteresting Unknowns: Mapping Southern Africa in the Seventeenth Century," Journal for the History of Knowledge 5 (2024).

"Crises and the History of Science: A Materialist Rehabilitation" (with Rory Kent), British Journal for the History of Science: Themes 9 (2024).

"Astronomical Chronology, the Jesuit China Mission, and Enlightenment History," Journal of the History of Ideas 84.3 (2023), 487-510.

"Racial Capitalism in Voltaire's Enlightenment," History Workshop Journal, 94 (2022), 22-41

"Rethinking the Rites Controversy: Kilian Stumpf's Acta Pekinensia and the Historical Dimensions of a Religious Quarrel," Modern Intellectual History, 19.1 (2022), 29-53

"Galenizing the New World: Joseph-François Lafitau's "Galenization" of Canadian Ginseng, ca 1716-1724," Notes and Records: The Royal Society journal of the history of science, 75.1 (2021), 59-72

Peer-reviewed book chapters

"Global History of Science" (with James Poskett), in Lukas M. Verburgt ed., Debating Contemporary Approaches to the History of Science (London: Bloomsbury, 2024)

"Chinese Heavens in European Literature, c. 1650-1700," in Florian Klaeger and Dirk Vanderbeke eds., Writing the Heavens: Celestial Observations in Literature, 800-1800 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2024)


"Starry Messengers," (with Dániel MargócsyIsis, 113.1 (2022), 162-164

"William Beinart and Saul Dubow, The Scientific Imagination in South Africa: 1700 to the present. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2021. pp. 406. ISBN 978-1-1089-3819-8. £64.99 (hardback)," British Journal for the History of Science, 57.1 (2022), 121-122

"Translation at Work: Chinese Medicine in the First Global Age, by Harold J. Cook, ed.," Nuncius, 37.1 (2022), 231-233

"Pratik Chakrabarti, Inscriptions of Nature: Geology and the Naturalization of Antiquity Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2020. Pp. 280. ISBN: 987-1-4214-3874-0. $54.95 (hardback)," The British Journal for the History of Science, 54.1 (2021), 118-120

Public Engagement

"The global origins of science," Royal Institution of Great Britain (public lecture), May 2024

"The science and shared history behind the Gregorian and Chinese calendars," NPR Short Wave (radio interview), February 2024

"Early modern racialisation in Southern Africa," Medicine and the Making of Race Blog, September 2023

"Globalizing China or Sinicizing the Global? On Alexander Statman's "A Global Enlightenment" and Ali Humayun Akhtar's "1368"," Los Angeles Review of Books, September 2023

"Broadly Speaking: An Interview with Gianamar Giovannetti-Singh," (interview by Alexander Collin), Journal of the History of Ideas Blog, August 2023

"Crush the Despicable!: Voltaire's Enlightened Racism," History Workshop Digital Magazine, November 2022

"Empire of Learning," Royal Society Blog, November 2022

"The Heavenly Politics of History in Early Modern Eurasia," Journal of the History of Ideas Blog, September 2022

"Hidden Figures: The Erasure of Scientific Labour and the Hope of Decolonisation" (with Rory Kent and Swathi Manivannan), BlueSci FOCUS Article, Michaelmas 2021, pp. 16-21