Ph.D. Candidate, Department of History, University of Pennsylvania
2019 to 2020
Lived Botany: Households, Ecological Adaptation and the Origins of Settler Colonialism in Early British North America
I analyze non-elite British settlers’ participation in science in early Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Barbados and Jamaica. Historians argue that the abstract nomenclature of metropolitan natural history helped inaugurate a global imperial mercantilist order. I reveal that in settler colonial contexts ordinary people required an alternate form of knowledge that I call “lived botany.” To survive, “lived botanists” created plant classification methods based on daily life and labor. Natural historians sought lived botanists’ knowledge, including information that the latter received from indigenous people but adapted and translated for their own purposes. Lived botanists thereby concealed many Native Americans’ contributions to Enlightenment science.