Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution” as Want to Read:
The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution

3.78  ·  Rating Details ·  287 Ratings  ·  46 Reviews
Bestselling author Deborah Harkness (A Discovery of Witches, Shadow of Night) explores the streets, shops, back alleys, and gardens of Elizabethan London, where a boisterous and diverse group of men and women shared a keen interest in the study of nature. These assorted merchants, gardeners, barber-surgeons, midwives, instrument makers, mathematics teachers, engineers, alc ...more
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 24th 2007 by Yale University Press (first published January 1st 2007)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Jewel House, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Jewel House

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Feb 18, 2011 Leslie rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
An interesting exploration of popular science in Elizabethan London. She focuses on the communal, collaborative scientific inquiries pursued by people almost entirely forgotten to history or never known to it, showing how their endeavours provided the foundation for the later achievements of the Scientific Revolution. Newton may have stood on the shoulders of giants, but he also stood on the shoulders of obscure men and women who collected curiosities and bought new science books and grew rare p ...more
Jun 04, 2016 Nancy rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
I read this book while researching and writing an exhibit on "Science in the Time of Shakespeare" for my university's commemoration of the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare's death. It's a fascinating account of scientific activity and thinking in Elizabethan England centered on the burgeoning City of London, and makes the case that not all science was practiced by the luminaries of the age. In fact, Harkness warns the reader in the introduction that if you’ve come to read about Francis Bacon and ...more
Candy Wood
Through the stories of relatively obscure Londoners, derived from the study of many manuscripts and early printed books, Harkness makes a convincing argument for finding the origins of modern scientific method in the work of people other than Francis Bacon. She shows that while Bacon, a gentleman, believed that true science required the involvement of a natural philosopher like him, many others were actually attempting to understand the natural world by doing experiments, analyzing the results, ...more
Mike Thicke
Oct 13, 2013 Mike Thicke rated it it was amazing
I really want to visit Deborah Harkness's London, and her writing is so strong that I feel I almost have. The Jewel House tells us stories of everyday naturalists, engineers, alchemists and tinkerers who populated Elizabethan London at the dawn of the Scientific Revolution. Harkness does an amazing job of compiling scraps of information from diverse sources about these characters into a vivid and engaging narrative.

This is a work of history admirable both for its scholarly contributions and its
Sep 06, 2013 Melissa rated it it was amazing
This is a highly accessible and compulsively readable history of science in Elizabethan England. I am not a specialist, but Harkness makes you want to run right out and get your own degree in the history of science. Her approach -- a historical, multi-site ethnography, of sorts, mixed with New Historicism and exhaustively researched both in terms of primary and secondary resources, makes for a compelling and wide-ranging narrative with a good mix of well-known and unknown individuals. I have nev ...more
Feb 06, 2012 Olivia rated it it was ok
Being a historian of science and having fallen in love with 'A Discovery of Witches' it was only natural for me to put a bit of effort into finding the academic works of Harkness. This is a very interesting book that sheds light on a few unknown key Elizabethan figures in the world of alchemy and natural science. Strangely, however, her writing is often labored and dry. I had real trouble reconciling the style of this to her fiction. It is a real shame when history is written this way because it ...more
Dec 21, 2011 Agatha rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
A very interesting take on the Scientific Revolution in 16th century Londaon, this book is also a model of how to do historical research. I love the Tudor era; this book gave me another persepctive on Elizabeth and her court and her environment
Dec 03, 2016 Jeannie rated it liked it
This book contains more detail than I was expecting (or perhaps wanting), however that indicates the seriousness of the underlying research. What emerges from the book is a fascinating portrait of the foundations of modern science in Elizabethan London, a vibrant, messy, urban, 'amateur' and very social community of learning, which proceeded the professionalisation of science in subsequent centuries. A fascinating portrait based on really deep immersion in a very broad range of documents.
Dec 29, 2014 Stephania rated it really liked it
Looking at science before it was "science" in Elizabethan London, where discovery was a community endeavor. Harkness provides a great look into the predecessors of the Scientific Revolution and the Royal Society. She does a fantastic job of exploring the various groups of alchemists, surgeons, botanists, mathematicians, businessmen, midwives, and many others who helped form the principles of the discipline as we know it.

Using a wealth of primary sources very well, Harkness really demonstrates t
Sep 17, 2012 Scotty rated it it was ok
One thing is certain... Harkness is a historian, not an author.

She takes a look at the advancement of science in the 17th century, but tries to focus on the little guys, the lesser known names. It is interesting to learn about all these people whose scientific thinking helped push civilization into the industrial revolution, but the text itself tends to drag. Interest in these people are lost in the mundane examples. For instance, at one point Harkness goes on about how well math books sold for
Lauren Albert
Jan 12, 2014 Lauren Albert rated it really liked it
An interesting look at scientific communities in Elizabethan London. Debates over Paracelsian medicine, practical versus theoretical mathematics and others took up the time and energy of people in all different professions.

"The scholarly emphasis on print culture rather than manuscript culture, the focus on singular great men rather than collaborative communities, and even our preference for a neat story of scientific development rather than a messy tale of contested knowledge and open-ended deb
Cheryl Lassiter
Aug 09, 2015 Cheryl Lassiter rated it really liked it
Excellent non-fiction book for anyone interested in the history of science. I read it to aid in my research on John Winthrop, Jr.

Harkness has a new (to me) take on Francis Bacon (she does not appear to be a fan, or perhaps thinks he's been given too much credit for igniting the "scientific revolution"). I often found myself flat-out envious of her level of access to archives and opportunities to delve into the old manuscripts. This book opened up an entirely new avenue of intellectual exploratio
Jan 25, 2013 Annalisa rated it really liked it
This is a really fun and fascinating book about the roots of the scientific revolution of the Enlightenment, which Harkness compellingly argues were not in the late 17th century, but the late 16th. She uncovers unknown scientists of all types, from a man who experiments and collects information from debtor's prison to Elizabethan lords funding government projects into defense and exploration.

I did find the chapter on mathematics less interesting than the others, possibly because I'm less interes
Feb 19, 2012 Laura rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: history of science fans, people interested in print culture
Shelves: academic-books
3 1/2 stars

Reading this so that I can sound like I know what I'm doing for an application. Really enjoying it so far. I'm reading it out of order though - I read what I needed for the application, but I think I'd like to read the rest just because.

I skipped chapter three and most of chapter two, so I can't comment on those. What I did read I found very interesting - I'm not sure her particular approach works 100% of the time, but it's unique and I found a lot of what she said about the formation
Jun 19, 2016 Erica rated it really liked it
This was required reading for one of my history seminar classes. That being said, I truly enjoyed reading this book. In fact I will go back to reread it since I only had a week to read it the first time (along with the other course work) so had to skim through a bit. Science is one of my interests, as is how things start, so this book was a great mix of the two. That, along with Harkness' writing style, the personal stories, and our professor snapping some photos of Lime Street when she was in L ...more
Feb 25, 2012 Elizabeth rated it it was amazing
I loved this book!

I learned so much about the history of the study of science just prior to the Scientific Revolution.

Deborah Harkness is an excellent and very engaging author!

I loved learning about the Lime Street community in 16th century London! That was my favorite chapter in the book. Lime Street was a community of immigrants ("Strangers") who studied and exchanged scientific information.

I also enjoyed the chapter on prison life in Elizabethan England. I had no idea that there was a steady
Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides
Jan 09, 2011 Snail in Danger (Sid) Nicolaides rated it liked it
Recommended to Snail in Danger (Sid) by: Professor of Secrets (by William Eamon)
I could and should probably give this more stars. However, to be honest, I was hoping for something that was a little bit more popular non-fiction and less academically oriented.

I thought that a lot of this book was, frankly and sadly, dull. The main exception was the chapter on the use of instruments. That I liked. It clarified some of my thoughts on why technology is sometimes available but scarce, both in real life and in fictional settings.

I have to admit that I skipped/didn't finish at leas
Jun 11, 2015 Naomi rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
Wonderfully engaging, this history of scientific endeavors covers part of the transition between medieval understandings of science and the age of enlightenment. Harkness offers readers a glimpse into the lives of those often left out of the record, and a better understanding of the passion for knowledge that makes great sense in an age of dramatic change and exploration. All of Harkness' skill as a writer of fiction is evident in how she constructs historical narrative, bringing to life a world ...more
Roy Kenagy
Nov 05, 2011 Roy Kenagy marked it as to-read
Shakespeare Didn’t Have the Internet: Oh Noes!

"Shakespeare didn’t need the Internet in 1600 because he had the London of 1600, which was not unlike a small Internet you could walk around in... For a wonderful, concise description of this world, read the introduction to Deborah Harkness’s splendid The Jewel House: Elizabethan London and the Scientific Revolution. She makes three points which are absolutely crucial to understanding just how misguided Orloff’s notion of early m
Apr 06, 2013 Mary rated it really liked it
I thought this was really interesting. It isn't so much about science as the *doing* of science and technology, by ordinary men and women in London in the late 16th century, through a series of stories. While the style is definitely academic, Harkness avoids using specialized jargon that would make the text inaccessible to those of us who aren't professional historians.
Nov 25, 2011 Maureen rated it it was amazing
Great study of Elizabethan England! Besides revealing that the investigation of the new scientific method was going on at all levels, not just intelligentsia or aristocrat, it also offers insight into the rich pool of scholarly study Deborah Harkness has drawn on and (hopefully) will continue to draw on to inform her Discovery of Witches trilogy.
Feb 23, 2015 Tonymcgrail rated it liked it
Huge amounts of facts and information on the Elizabethans. I think I need the version with pictures as the audio gets to be a bit stretched. Seems her documentary narrative is as stretched as her fictional narrative. Discovery of witches by same author.

Gave up on the audio as it misses the pictures of the hardcopy.

Have hard copy and debating whether it's worth it.
Jul 09, 2011 Karen rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Got this because I wanted to see non-fiction by Harkness. She writes well, and if I had more interest in this subject I would have given it a higher rating. I bet she is a fabulous teacher and lecturer based on her enthusiasm for the material. On another topic, can't wait for book two of All Souls...
Very descriptive book on the development of Elizabethan science, with excellent linkage of science to popular culture and everyday life. It is enlightening to read about science set in the midst of noisy, dirty, thriving London rather than antiseptically depicted as a solely intellectual activity.
Elizabeth Desole
Apr 08, 2012 Elizabeth Desole rated it it was ok
Boring. The whole first chapter is only about one block in London where many botanist type people resided during the scientific revolution. It dragged too much for a layperson, in my opinion. Maybe the other chapters were better, but it was due back at the library and I didn't bother renewing
Jan 19, 2014 Amy rated it liked it
I found the hypothesis that a large and vibrant academic community existed before the printed word to be fascinating and highly believable. But I felt that there were too many historic figures discussed to really get a grasp on any one person or area of practice.
Sep 08, 2013 Teresa rated it really liked it
Shelves: haveread
My favorite chapter was the one on mathematical literacy. Who knew that the original English translation of Euclid was a pop up book. And that it would start a trend of pop up and cut out books for math instruments and mathematical literacy.
Julia Hendon
May 14, 2014 Julia Hendon rated it liked it
An interesting thesis, that scientific knowledge and inquiry was a vernacular and organic development among communities of merchants, surgeons, and passionate amateurs in Elizabethan London. Rather repetitious but well researched.
Oct 01, 2012 Marissa rated it it was amazing
This is one of the most interesting histories I have ever read. Harkness's research is extensive and quantitative yet her book reads like some of the smoothest fiction I've ever read. She truly has a gift.
May 30, 2015 Alleyne rated it liked it
Interesting, but dry. Glad I listened to it rather than read it. I'd have never been able to keep my eyes open.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • John Dee's Conversations with Angels: Cabala, Alchemy, and the End of Nature
  • The Great Stink of London: Sir Joseph Bazalgette and the Cleansing of the Victorian Metropolis
  • Too Much to Know: Managing Scholarly Information before the Modern Age
  • Wonders and the Order of Nature, 1150--1750
  • The Watchers: A Secret History of the Reign of Elizabeth I
  • London in the Nineteenth Century: A Human Awful Wonder of God
  • Leviathan and the Air-Pump: Hobbes, Boyle, and the Experimental Life
  • Elizabeth's London: Everyday Life in Elizabethan London
  • 1700: Scenes from London Life
  • The Subterranean Railway
  • Birth, Marriage, and Death: Ritual, Religion, and the Life Cycle in Tudor and Stuart England
  • The Voices of Morebath: Reformation and Rebellion in an English Village
  • The Gaol: The Story of Newgate, London's Most Notorious Prison
  • The Occult Philosophy in the Elizabethan Age (Routledge Classics)
  • The English Civil War: A People's History
  • Gulag Voices: An Anthology
  • Ornamentalism: How the British Saw Their Empire
  • London: A Social History

Share This Book