The editorial project of Carlo Cattaneo took shape before a clear-cut classification of scientific disciplines set in. This contribution by Alice Ingold aims to highlight the pioneering nature of Cattaneo’s initiative in a "pre-disciplinary" world. She draws a parallel with the early work of Frédéric Le Play, whose inquiries during the 1830’s have been recently rediscovered and revalued A first step lies in underlining the collective dimension of the inquiry and its openness to social actors not belonging to learned societies or to the academic world. Cattaneo’s project places great emphasis on the knowledge elaborated in social practices. Furthermore, the importance given to the historical "construction of the territory" allowed Cattaneo to hold an original position in the debate. Against the conception of law as the product of human will, Cattaneo developed the concept of a "lower tier of institutions". Ingold’s contribution aims to highlight the importance of the rural background in the rise of the social sciences, mainly observed via the "social (urban and industrial) question".
Keywords: Carlo Cattaneo, Frédéric Le Play, social sciences, law, rural