Nature's Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the 'Improvement' of the World

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Yale University Press, 2000 - Gardening - 346 pages
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'Nature's Government' is a daring attempt to juxtapose the histories of Britain, western science, and imperialism. It shows how colonial expansion, from the age of Alexander the Great to the twentieth century, led to complex kinds of knowledge. Science, and botany in particular, was fed by information culled from the exploration of the globe. At the same time science was useful to imperialism: it guided the exploitation of exotic environments and made conquest seem necessary, legitimate, and beneficial. Drayton traces the history of this idea of 'improvement' from its Christian agrarian origins in the sixteenth century to its inclusion in theories of enlightened despotism. It was as providers of legitimacy, as much as of universal knowledge, aesthetic perfection, and agricultural plenty, he argues, that botanic gardens became instruments of government, first in Continental Europe, and by the late eighteenth century, in Britain and the British Empire. At the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew, the rise of which throughout the nineteenth century is a central theme of this book, a pioneering scientific institution was added to a spectacular ornamental garden. At Kew, 'improving' the world became a potent argument for both the patronage of science at home and Britain's prerogatives abroad. 'Nature's Government' provides a portrait of how the ambitions of the Enlightenment shaped the great age of British power, and how empire changed the British experience and the modern world. Richard Drayton was born in the Caribbean and educated at Harvard, Oxford, and Yale. A former Fellow of St. Catharine's College, Cambridge, and Lincoln College, Oxford, he has also been Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
 

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Contents

The World in a Garden
3
The Gathering in of Creation
4
The Physic Garden in the Renaissance
9
Discovering the Order of Providence
14
The Climax of Botany or the Second Loss of Eden
19
Plants and Power
26
Imperial Magic
27
The Ornaments of Solomon
32
The Royal Gardens Committee of 1838
153
Botany versus Horticulture
159
The Strange Victory of Sir William Hooker
165
The Professionals and the Empire The Hookers at Kew 184173
170
The Predicament of Science in an Age of Reform
172
Recreating the Empire
180
Industry and Empire Collections and Careers
192
Surveys and the Colonial Floras
201

A Royal Garden at Richmond
37
The Useful Garden Agriculture and the Science of Government
50
Corn and Periphery
55
Improving Gentlemen and the First British Empire
59
The Science of the Monarchical State
67
A Prospect on Banks at Kew 17721820
78
Nature and Empire
83
Improving the British Empire Sir Joseph Banks and Kew 17831820
85
The Making of Sir Joseph Banks
94
Science and the Second British Empire
106
Kew Empire and the Sons of Science
124
From Royal to Public The Reform of Kew 182041
129
The Decline of Kew and the Profession of Botany
135
Whiggery and Botany
148
The Cinchona Initiative
206
A New Identity Crystallizes
211
Science and the New Imperialism
220
The Government of Nature
221
Exploitation and Conservation
229
The New Botany and Colonial Agriculture
238
Economic Botany and Free Trade Empire 187695
248
The Green Edge of Constructive Imperialism 18951903
255
The Climax of a Scientific Empire
262
Empire and Development
267
At the Crossroads
269
Notes
275
Index
327
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About the author (2000)

Richard Drayton is currently Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

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