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Consuming Natural History and Travel

The 18th century saw a huge influx of natural history material to Europe, this included everything from living creatures and plants to seeds, herbariums, minerals, insects mounted on pins, skins and larger animals – stuffed or conserved in spirit. The landscape in Europe was sampled in a similar manner. In this session we will study this flow of exotic and domestic material, how it was gathered on the field by naturalists, how it was conserved and displayed in private collections, museums and gardens and how it came to shape identities associated with being e.g. a gentleman, a lady, an amateur or a professional. We will discuss European as well as more specific British developments focusing particularly on the latter half of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th century.

The seminar covers two themes. The first half (question 1 and 2) are concerned with social, economic and geographical developments. First we will be discussing the connection between natural history knowledge and development in long distance trade and travelling. Secondly we will look at how the consumption and production of natural history shaped class and gender identities in 18th and early 19th century Britain.

In the second half we will turn the table around and talk about how the consumption of natural history shaped scientific developments. Question 3 is about the connection between the great influx of natural history material and the categorisation of this material and its display in museums in the late 18th and early 19th century. Question 4 is about the handling of natural history material, how objects were conserved and stored and how such issues can help us understand how collections developed.

This will lead us to the final question, question 5, which touches on material culture as an approach in which we can incorporate history of science with history of consumption, class, gender and culture

Session Leader

  • H dot Hodacs at warwick dot ac dot uk

Questions

  1. What were the reasons for collecting natural history on journeys? Discuss the overlapping of colonial, scientific, social and professional reasons behind such activities.
    Instructions: Read articles by Miller and Koerner listed under Required Reading, There are several texts listed under Further Reading I, which also are relevant, e.g. Schiebinger and Camerini’s articles are good starting points.
  2. How did the production and consumption of natural history shape identities and how did different groups engaged in exploring the natural world relate to one another?
    Instructions: Read article by Allen listed under Required Reading; see also other texts by Allen, Secord and Shteir listed under Further Reading III.
  3. How did 18th century reforms of scientific nomenclature and taxonomy (e.g. Linnaeus’) influence the culture of collection and display?
    Instructions: Read Allen, Alberti and Koerner listed under Required Reading. The books on Joseph Banks (by Gascoigne and Chambers) or on James Edwards Smith (by Walker and White) listed under Further Reading I and II are also good.
  4. How did techniques for conservation of natural history material change overtime and how did it influence the culture of collection and display?
    Instructions: Read articles by McCracken Peck and Alberti listed under Required Reading. The book by Asma is funny although have some flaws. Belk and Altick gives good over views and Haynes article is also informative, you find them under Further reading II.
  5. Explain the notion of “object biography”.
    Instructions: Read text by Alberti listed under Required Reading.

Required Reading

Further Reading

I. On travelling and natural history

  • Rob Iliffe, “Science and voyages of discovery” in Roy Porter (ed.) Eighteenth-Century Science, Vol. 4: The Cambridge History of Science, Cambridge University press 2003, pp. 618-645
  • Londa Schiebinger and Claudia Swan “Introduction”, in Londa Schiebinger and Claudia Swan (eds.) Colonial botany. Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 1-16.
  • John Gascoigne, Joseph Banks and the English Enlightenment: Useful Knowledge and Polite Culture, Cambridge University Press, 1994.
  • John Gascoigne, Science in the service of empire: Joseph Banks, the British state and the uses of science in the age of revolution, Cambridge University Press, 1998.
  • Londa Schiebinger, “Prospecting for Drugs: European Naturalists in the West Indies”, in Londa Schiebinger and Claudia Swan (eds.) Colonial botany. Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World, University of Pennsylvania Press, pp. 119-133.
  • Alix Cooper, Inventing the indigenous: local knowledge and natural history in early modern Europe, Cambridge University Press, 2007.
  • Matthew Eddy, The language of mineralogy: John Walker, chemistry and the Edinburgh Medical School, 1750-1800, 2008, particularly introduction, chapter 1, 3. (pp. 1-51, 83-117)
  • David Mackay, “Agents of empire. the Banksian collectors and evaluation of new land”, in David Philip Miller & Peter Hanns Reill, (eds.) Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany, and Representations of Nature, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 38-57.
  • Jane R. Camerini, 1996. “Wallace in the Field.” In Science in the Field, Osiris vol. 11, ed. Henrika Kuklick and Robert E. Kohler, pp. 44-65.
  • Hanna Hodacs, “Linnaeans outdoors: the transformative role of studying nature ‘on the move’ and outside”, The British Journal for the History of Science, published on-line, June 2010, pp. 1-27

II. On the material culture of science

  • Russel W. Belk, Collecting in a consumer society, Routledg, 1995, chapter 2, pp. 22-64.
  • Richard Daniel Altick, The shows of London, Harvard University Press, 1978, chapter 1-2, 17, pp. 5-23, 317-331.
  • Stephen T. Asma, Stuffed Animals and Pickled Heads. The Culture and Evolution of Natural History Museums, Oxford University Press, 2001
  • Clare Haynes, “A 'Natural' Exhibitioner: Sir Ashton Lever and his Holosphusikon”, Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, Volume 24 Issue 1, pp. 1- 13.
  • Neil Chambers, Joseph Banks and the British Museum: the world of collecting, 1770-1830, Pickering and Chatto, 2007, introduction, chapter 1-3 pp. 1-59.
  • Margot Walker, Sir James Edward Smith, 1759-1828. First President of the Linnean Society of London, Linnean Society of London, 1988.
  • Paul White, “The purchase of knowledge: James Edward Smith and the Linnean collections”, Endeavour, Volume 23, Issue 3, 1999, Pages 126-129
  • Samuel J.M.M. Alberti, “Owning and Collecting Natural Objects in Nineteenth-Century Britain”, in Marco Beretta (ed.) From Private to Public: Natural Collections and Museums. Uppsala Studies in History of Science. Vol. 31. European Studies in Science History and the Arts. Vol. 5. Science History Publications, 2005.
  • Samuel J. M. M. Alberti, “The Museum Affect: Visiting Collections of Anatomy and Natural History,” in Aileen Fyfe and Bernard Lightman (eds). Science in the Marketplace: Nineteenth-Century Sites and Experiences, (Chicago: Univ. Chicago Press), pp. 371–403.
  • Samuel J. M. Alberti, “Placing Nature: Natural History Collections and Their Owners in Nineteenth-Century Provincial England”, The British Journal for the History of Science, Vol. 35, No. 3 (Sep., 2002), pp. 291-311
  • Victoria Carroll, ”The natural history of visiting: responses to Charles Waterton and Walton Hall”, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences Volume 35, Issue 1, March 2004, pp. 31-64
  • Anne Secord, “Corresponding interests: artisans and gentlemen in nineteenth-century natural history”, The British Journal for the History of Science (1994), 27:383-408

III. On natural history and society

  • Keith Thomas, Man and the natural world. Changing attitudes in England, Allen Lane, 1984, Chapter 2, pp. 51-91
  • David Elliston Allen, “Natural History in Britain in the Eighteenth Century.” In Naturalists and Society: The Culture of Natural History. Aldershot: Ashgate Variorum, 2001. pp. 333–347
  • David Elliston Allen, “Amateurs and Professionals”, in Peter J. Bowler and John V. Pickstone, (ed.) Modern Biological and Earth Sciences, The Cambridge History of Science, Vol. 7. Cambridge University press 2009, pp. 15-33
  • Emma Spary, "The 'Nature' of Enlightenment" in William Clark, Jan Golinski, and Steven Schaffer (eds.) The Sciences in Enlightened Europe, University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 272-304.
  • Janet Browne “Botany in the boudoir and garden: the Banksian context”, in Visions of Empire: Voyages, Botany, and Representations of Nature, David Philip Miller & Peter Hanns Reill, (eds.) Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 153-172.
  • David Elliston Allen, “Tastes and Crazes” in Jardine N., Secord J. A, Spary E.C. (eds.) Cultures of Natural History, Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 394-407.
  • Ann B. Shteir, "Botany in the Breakfast Room. Women and early Nineteenth-Century British Plant Study”", in Pnina Abir-Am and Dorinda Outram (eds.) Uneasy Careers and Intimate Lives: Women in Science 1789-1979, Rutgers University Press, pp. 31-43.
  • Ann B. Shteir, Cultivating Women, Cultivating Science: Flora's Daughters and Botany in England, 1760-1860, Johns Hopkins, 1996.
  • Anne Secord, “Artisan Botany”, in Jardine N., Secord J. A, Spary E.C. (eds) Cultures of Natural History. Cambridge University Press, 1996, pp. 378–393.
  • Anne Secord, “Corresponding interests: artisans and gentlemen in nineteenth-century natural history”, The British Journal for the History of Science, 1994, 27 pp. 383-408.
  • Anne Secord, “Science in the pub: artisan botanists in early 19th century Lancashire, History of Science, 1994:32 pp. 269-315.
  • Samuel J. M. Alberti, Amateurs and Professionals in One County: Biology and Natural History in Late Victorian Yorkshire, Journal of the History of Biology 34: pp. 115–147, 2001.