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The role of artisans, of various shared practices and legitimizing discourses, vernacular sources, hegemonic discourses, the historicity of concepts and practices, popular cultures, context and locality, social influences, grand narratives, are all historiographical concepts, to name just a few, which have informed currents such as historicism, social constructivism or cultural studies of science, and have impacted on the history of science and technology, from the 1980s onwards and still do presently.
However, they are far from new. During the fabulous 1930s, individually or integrated in groups or schools, several scholars anticipated many of them, albeit with different trappings and with diverse purposes. Such is the case of Robert Merton, Boris Hessen, Michael Polanyi, Edgar Zilsel, Henryk Grossman, Franz Borkenau, Ludwik Fleck, Antonio Gramsci or Lewis Mumford, to name just a few. We propose to revisit this amazingly rich decade from the perspective of the history of science and technology, not just as an act of historical retrospection, but mainly as a methodological exercise which enables us to reflect on the main historiographical trends shaping presently our discipline, at the same time reassessing their theoretical limits. Many problems faced presently by historians of science (and also by philosophers of science) were tackled and discussed by them as is the case of the debates around the old dichotomy unity vs. disunity of science, putting forward impressive insights, both at the empirical and theoretical levels. Engulfed by the ravages sweeping Europe at the time, language and ideological constraints, many simply passed by unnoticed or were progressively forgotten. Presently, a fresh look at their contributions informed by today’s concerns and agendas promises to offer rich vistas and a salutary exercise on disciplinary auto-reflexivity.