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Reading the Skies

A Cultural History of English Weather, 1650-1820

From the time of Aristotle until the late eighteenth century, meteorology meant the study of "meteors"—spectacular objects in the skies beneath the moon, which included everything from shooting stars to hailstorms. In Reading the Skies, Vladimir Jankovic traces the history of this meteorological tradition in Enlightenment Britain, examining its scientific and cultural significance.

Jankovic interweaves classical traditions, folk/popular beliefs and practices, and the increasingly quantitative approaches of urban university men to understanding the wonders of the skies. He places special emphasis on the role that detailed meteorological observations played in natural history and chorography, or local geography; in religious and political debates; and in agriculture. Drawing on a number of archival sources, including correspondence and weather diaries, as well as contemporary pamphlets, tracts, and other printed sources reporting prodigious phenomena in the skies, this book will interest historians of science, Britain, and the environment.

270 pages | 1 halftone, 21 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2001

History: British and Irish History

History of Science

Religion: Religion and Society

Table of Contents

List of Figures
List of Boxes
Acknowledgments
Introduction
1. Imperfect Mixtures
Meteorologica
Early modern meteors
A dominion of exhalations
2. Observing the Extraordinary
Wonders, marvels, and ominous meteors
"Vulgar Baconians"
Rehabilitating the unusual
3. Public Meteors
Providential visitations
The "Great Storm"
Aerial appearances and astounding apparitions
"Lord Derwentwater’s lights"
4. "Memorials of Uncommon Accidents"
Curious plotting
Collectable weather
The common voice
5. Provincial Weather
The Rev. Borlase and his network of correspondents
Calendars, diaries, narratives
"Stationary Intelligencers"
6. Rustic Seasons
An impasse in theory
The weather in order
Shepherds as experts
A return to the ancients
7. Laboratory Atmospheres
Electrification
Chemical hegemony
What is in a name?
Weather remodeled
Conclusion
Appendix
Meteoric phenomena reported by individuals between 1649 and 1795
Notes
Bibliography
Index

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