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Denise Phillips

Denise PhillipsDepartment of History
Ph.D., Harvard University
Project:  The Rural Socrates: Agricultural Knowledge, Experiment and the Enlightenment

This project is a book about Kleinjogg, the eighteenth century’s most famous peasant.  This skilled Swiss farmer was “discovered” by a Zurich doctor in the late 1750s, and he quickly became a celebrity in enlightened circles across Europe.  Portraits of his family life and farming practices appeared in German, French, English, and American editions.  This work uses Kleinjogg to explore the role of agriculture improvement in the pan-European enlightenment, and particularly what the figure of Kleinjogg can reveal about how eighteenth-century elites dealt with the role of social status and the specificities of place in the production of knowledge.  Agricultural improvement was a prominent enlightened cause, but elites interested in agriculture faced several challenges.  Effective agricultural knowledge was strongly dependent on knowledge about specific locales, and gaining this kind of knowledge often meant engaging in new ways with rural inhabitants.  Kleinjogg, both as an image and as an actual person, served as a kind of thought experiment about the level of exchange that might be possible across wide gaps in social status.  

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