Astronomical Chronology, the Jesuit China Mission, and Enlightenment History
This article examines the use of astronomical chronology in Jesuit and secular works of history between the mid-seventeenth and mid- eighteenth centuries. It suggests that the highly-visible adoption astronomical records in historical scholarship in Enlightenment Europe by Nicolas Fréret and Voltaire was entangled with debates about Chinese chronology, translated by Jesuit missionaries. The article argues that the missionary Martino Martini’s experience of the Manchu conquest of China was crucial in shaping his conception of history as a discipline. Political events that unfolded in seventeenth-century China had a marked effect on discussions about emergent world history in eighteenth-century Europe.