This paper aims to assess the credibility of the legitimation thesis; the claim that the development of experimental science involved a legitimation of certain aspects of artisanal practice or craft knowledge. My goal will be to provide a critique of this idea by examining Francis Bacon’s notion of ‘mechanical history’ and the influence it exerted on attempts by later generations of scholars to appropriate the knowledge of craft traditions. Specifically, I aim to show how such projects were often premised upon socio-epistemological ideals that served to reinforce, rather than relinquish boundaries between artisans and natural philosophers. It will be my claim that a closer examination of the presuppositions underlying attempts by early modern natural philosophers to appropriate craft knowledge reveals, not a desire to legitimize aspects of artisanal practice, but rather strategies aimed at demonstrating the inferiority of the local ways of knowing upon which it was based.

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