The method of ‘re-treading’ the fieldwork of past geologists is analogous to the method of ‘re-staging’ historically significant laboratory experiments. Neither provides any short cut to scientific or historical truth, nor grounds for celebrating or condemning the work of past scientists. Yet both can yield valuable insights into those scientists’ on-the-spot thinking, their reasoning and their eventual presentation of their conclusions. As a historical research method, the ‘re-treading’ of fieldwork has been relatively neglected, although it has many parallels with more traditional methods centred on the analysis of texts and their accompanying images. This paper summarises a few examples of ‘re-treading’, drawn from the author’s published research on fieldwork by European geologists in the decades around 1800; but the methods described here can be, and deserve to be, adopted much more widely.

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