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Sarah Easterby-Smith - ePortfolio

This page gives details of my activities as a Research Student and Early
Career Fellow at Warwick, and was last updated in July 2010.

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my current website

PhD Research

Department: History

Supervisors: Professor Maxine Berg (University of Warwick) and Professor Colin Jones (Queen Mary, University of London)

Cultivating Commerce: Connoisseurship, botany and the plant trade in London and Paris, c. 1760 - c. 1815

Year Started: October 2005; Thesis Submitted: December 2009

Funding: ESRC 1+3 Award and Entente Cordiale Scholarship

My research project:

My PhD assessed how the commercial trade in plants was connected to the creation of knowledge about botany and horticulture between 1760 and c. 1793. I placed British practices within a European context, by discussing the ways in which Britain and France were connected to each other. I exposed the diversity of socio-intellectual configurations within the late eighteenth-century Republic of Letters, by examining how individuals who made a commercial profit from science understood and related to the notion of a community of scientific practitioners. My research focused on the interplay between knowledge, commerce and wider culture and was not, therefore, a straight history of science. Instead, my account of these activities placed the plant trade and the development of the science of botany within a wider cultural context.

The first part of my thesis explored the livelihoods and activities of the proprietors of two commercial nursery companies who supplied plants to consumers and collectors in London and Paris. I addressed how each participated in scientific and commercial networks, examining which groups composed these networks, the types of social relationships formed between these different groups, and how knowledge circulated between members. My discussion compared the British situation to that in France, in order to explore whether cultures of horticultural consumption were nationally bounded or whether they were more cosmopolitan. I sought to deepen and enhance our understanding of the social structures that supported the Republic of Letters in the late eighteenth century, and to understand the ways in which the British and French networks of plant collectors were connected with each other.

The second part of the thesis shifted to focus on the people who purchased and exchanged plants. I assessed who comprised the 'public' that collected specimens and studied botany. The discussion understood ‘science’ very broadly, investigating the variety of ways in which practitioners at all social levels participated in scientific culture, and especially how these were gendered. I examined how gardens in London and Paris formed part of an expanding space for science, and how these created new opportunities for people to participate in the composition of new knowledge. I emphasised in particular the significance of the culture of connoisseurship to the history of botany, and highlighted the range of different 'publics' who collected plants and studied their science. I concluded by assessing the implications of this for our understanding of the nature of the scientific and commercial relationship between Britain and France.

Brief C.V.





Max Weber Postdoctoral Fellow, European University Institute, Florence

Early Career Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick

PhD History, University of Warwick

  Including: 2006-2007 Entente Cordiale scholarship, Université de Paris VII (Denis Diderot) (Year out from PhD)
2004-2005 MA Eighteenth-Century Studies (Distinction) University of Warwick
2001-2004 BA History (1st class Hons) University of York

Click on the following links to find out about:

Unpublished Conference and Seminar Papers (until June 2010)

May 2010 'Propagating Commerce: plant breeding and market competition in London and Paris, c. 1770-1814', Economies of Improvement: Technical Innovations, the Sciences and the Public Sphere in the Eighteenth Century, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick

April 2010 ''Taking a botanical tour'. Botany, Connoisseurship and Communities of Knowledge, c. 1760-1792', Social History Society Annual Conference, University of Glasgow.

March 2010 'Cultivating Commerce: Amateurs, Botanists and the Plant Trade in Paris, c. 1760 - c. 1789', Nature's Publics. The Making of Publics for Knowledge of the Natural World in Europe, 1500-1800, McGill University, Montréal.

January 2010 'Cultivating Commerce: Connoisseurship and the Plant Trade in late 18th-c London and Paris', Modern French History Seminar, Institute of Historical Research, London.

December 2009 'Polite Plants: Translating Natural Knowledge in the late Eighteenth Century', Translation and the Challenge of (Methodological) Difference, Institute of Advanced Studies, University of Warwick.

June 2009 'Amateurship, horticulture and botany in Paris, c. 1760- c. 1789', Revisiting the Public Sphere of Science in Capital Cities / Revisiter l'espace public des savoirs des capitales, European University Institute, Florence.

April 2009 'The exchange of botanical knowledge between France and Britain, c. 1760-89', Economic History Society Annual Conference, University of Warwick

February 2009 'Cross-Channel Commerce: the circulation of plants, people and botanical culture between Britain and France, c. 1760-1792', Enlightenment Workshop, The Voltaire Foundation, University of Oxford

November 2008 'A Botanical Tour in Paris: Botany, amateurship and communities of knowledge, ca. 1770-1789', Cabinet of Natural History, History and Philosophy of Science, Cambridge

September 2008 'Commerce, the plant trade and the exchange of botanical knowledge in Britain and France, ca. 1760-1792', Colloque 'France, Grande-Bretagne, Irlande: Transferts culturels et parcours des savoirs au siècle des Lumières', Université de Paris VII-Denis Diderot

September 2008 'Plant Collecting, Botany and Commerce in Paris, ca. 1760-1789', 3ème congrès de la Société Française de l'histoire des sciences et des techniques, École normale supérieur, Paris

July 2008 'The Republic of Science and the Plant Trade in late eighteenth-century London and Paris: Cosmopolitanism meets Commerce', "Three Societies" Conference, Keble College, Oxford

May 2008 'Propagating commerce: plant breeding and market competition in London and Paris, c. 1770-1800', Living Properties / Making Knowledge and Controlling Ownership in the History of Biology. International conference at the Max-Planck Institut für Wissenschaftgeschichte

February 2008 'Cosmopolitanism: The view from the History of Science', Workshop entitled "Cosmopolitanism: Theories, Perspectives and Readings", Global Arts Network (Warwick - Ashmolean Museum - Victoria and Albert Museum)

November 2007 'Two of a kind? Botanical exchange and the commercial plant trade in Paris, c. 1770 - c. 1800', History of Science Society Annual Conference, Washington D.C., USA. Bursary: National Science Foundation, Travel Award

July 2007 'Beyond Botany. Commerce, Connoisseurship and Plant Collecting in Paris, 1770-1789', Congres International des Lumieres, Montpellier, France. Bursary: International Society for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Travel Grant

May 2007 'Maillon faible ou maillon fort? Le role du commerce des plantes dans le développement d'une science botanique, (Paris, 1760-1789)', Presented at a Doctoral Workshop on "Pratiques du voyage et constructions savantes du monde" (directed by Marie-Noelle Bourguet and Isabelle Surun), Université de Paris VII - Denis Diderot, Paris, France

November 2006 Led reading group on Maya Jasanoff, Edge of Empire. Lives, culture and conquest in the East, 1750-1850 (New York, 2005), Eighteenth-Century Studies Seminar, University of Warwick

May 2005 ''Bath Butterflies' and 'Botanic Macaronis': Joseph Banks and the Practices and Perceptions of Eighteenth-Century Natural History', Postgraduate Conference, Department of History, University of Warwick

Other Organisational Responsibilities

2007-2009 Organiser of Arts & Humanities Postgraduate Theory Reading Group, University of Warwick

Spring 2005 Co-organiser of Postgraduate Conference, Department of History, University of Warwick

2004-2006 Postgraduate Rep., Staff-Student Liaison Committee, Department of History, University of Warwick


2008 Post-Graduate Award - Introduction to Academic and Professional Practice [Teacher training], University of Warwick

January 2006 French language training (Advanced level), Alliance Française, Paris

March 2006 AHRC Training Course in Colonial and Post-colonial history, University of Bristol

2006-2007 Latin language training (Basic level), Department of Classics, University of Warwick

2005-2006 French language training (A-level + 1), Language Teaching Centre, University of Warwick

Sarah Easterby-Smith 

Sarah Easterby-Smith

Contact Me



ESRC Network Connected Sociologies

Leverhulme Network Commodities and Culture

History of Science Society

Social History Society

(Word Document) Chapters