Meridith Beck Sayre

Position title: William Coleman Dissertation Fellow (2013-2014)

History of Science, UW-Madison

Closely cropped portrait image of Meridith Beck Sayre wearing blue.

The Process of Conversion: A Biography of the Jesuit Relations

My doctoral project examines the dynamic life of a book series, known as the Jesuit Relations, over the course of four centuries. My work reveals how these books, written by and for French Catholics in the seventeenth century, have gained scientific authority in the modern social sciences. Originally intended as a chronicle of the Jesuit mission to Canada, the Relations also appealed to an increasingly literate French population who wanted to read the latest on their country’s foray across the Atlantic. Today, these texts are widely used by scholars to investigate the colonial encounter between Europeans and the indigenous peoples of North America. This semester I will be working on two chapters: the first examines a revival of interest in the Relations among nineteenth-century North American bibliophiles, and the second illustrates the importance of the Relations to the emergence of ethnohistory as a methodology and field of study.

Meridith Beck Sayre is the William Coleman History of Science Dissertation Fellow and a PhD candidate in the Department of the History of Science at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. Her research interests include print culture, the intersections between science and religion, and the history of the social sciences. Her doctoral work has been funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada’s four-year Doctoral Scholarship, the David C. and Greta J. Lindberg Distinguished Graduate Fellowship, the Chancellor’s Opportunity Dissertation Fellowship, the Robert F. and Jean E. Holtz Center for Science and Technology Studies, and UW’s Department of the History of Science. She received a B.A. in archaeology and an M.A. in history from Simon Fraser University.