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  • Miles Ogborn (a1)

Enlightenment ideas of the “the Great Map of Mankind” established relationships between historical and geographical distance which provided the problematic for eighteenth-century natural and civil histories. This raised issues of evidence for writing such histories that were particularly acute in the Caribbean, where natural history was—via the movement and transplantation of plants, animals and peoples—always a matter of “civil” history; and where the question of what (or who) was “civil” (or civilized) was addressed via discussions of the boundary between humanity and nature. It is shown that how these questions were asked provoked the use of an array of evidence that varied in its management of the relationships of proximity and distance: including travellers’ tales, eyewitness observations, classical authors and philosophical speculation. The epistemological disjunctures that this evidence brought with it meant that the questions that were opened up could not be closed down.

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1 Sloane, Hans, A Voyage to the Islands Madera, Barbadoes, Nieves, St Christophers, and Jamaica; with the Natural History of the Herbs and Trees, Four-Footed Beasts, Fishes, Birds, Insects, Reptiles, &c. Of the last of those islands, 2 vols. (London, 1707–25), vol. 1.

2 James Delbourgo, “Slavery in the Cabinet of Curiosities”, British Museum website, at

3 This is the implication of the separate existence of the drawing of the pots, and its detachment from its label is noted in Sloan, Kim, “Sloane's ‘Pictures and Drawings in Frames’ and ‘Books of Miniature & Painting, Designs, &c.”, in Hunter, Michael, Walker, Alison and MacGregor, Arthur, eds., From Books to Bezoars: Sir Hans Sloane and His Collections (London, 2012), 168–89.

4 Sloane, Voyage to Jamaica, 2: 269.

5 Ibid., 1: lxx–lxxi.

6 Kriz, Kay Dian, “Curiosities, Commodities, and Transplanted Bodies in Hans Sloane's ‘Natural History of Jamaica’”, William and Mary Quarterly, 57 (2000), 3578, 48; and Ianinni, Christopher P., Fatal Revolutions: Natural History, West Indian Slavery, and the Routes of American Literature (Chapel Hill, 2012), chap. 1: “Strange Things, Occult Relations: Emblem and Narrative in Hans Sloane's Voyage to . . . Jamaica”.

7 Kriz, Kay Dian, Slavery, Sugar, and the Culture of Refinement: Picturing the British West Indies, 1700–1840 (New Haven, 2008).

8 Ianinni, Fatal Revolutions, 73.

9 Withers, Charles W. J., Placing the Enlightenment: Thinking Geographically about the Age of Reason (Chicago, 2007).

10 Burke, Edmund to Robertson, William, 9 June 1777, in The Correspondence of Edmund Burke, vol. 3, ed. Guttridge, George H. (Cambridge, 1961), 351.

11 Sebastiani, Sylvia, The Scottish Enlightenment: Race, Gender, and the Limits of Progress (Basingstoke, 2013).

12 See Sylvia Sebastiani's essay in this forum.

13 Raj, Kapil, “Refashioning Civilities, Engineering Trust: William Jones, Indian Intermediaries and the Production of Reliable Legal Knowledge in Late Eighteenth-Century Bengal”, Studies in History, 17 (2001), 175209; Cohn, Bernard, Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British in India (Princeton, 1996); and Schaffer, Simon, “The Asiatic Enlightenments of British Astronomy”, in Schaffer, Simon, Roberts, Lissa, Raj, Kapil and Delbourgo, James, eds., The Brokered World: Go-Betweens and Global Intelligence, 1770–1820 (Sagamore Beach, 2009), 49104.

14 Canizares-Esguerra, Jorge, How to Write the History of the New World: Histories, Epistemologies, and Identities in the Eighteenth-Century Atlantic World (Stanford, 2001).

15 Ogborn, Miles, Global Lives: Britain and the World, 1550–1800 (Cambridge, 2008), chap. 11, “Navigation and Discovery: Voyagers of the Pacific”.

16 Pagden, Anthony, Lords of All the World: Ideologies of Empire in Spain, Britain and France c. 1500–c. 1800 (New Haven, 1995).

17 Sebastiani, The Scottish Enlightenment.

18 For example, Browne, Patrick, The Civil and Natural History of Jamaica (London, 1756).

19 Barham, Henry, Hortus Americanus: Containing An Account of the Trees, Shrubs, and other Vegetable Productions, of South-America and the West-India Islands, and particularly of the Island of Jamaica; Interspersed with many curious and useful Observations, respecting their Uses in Medicine, Diet, and Mechanics (Kingston, Jamaica, 1794). The original manuscript of this work is now lost.

20 “Henry Barham's History of Jamaica”, British Library Additional Manuscripts 12422.

21 Browne, Civil and Natural History of Jamaica, vi.

22 Phillips, Mark Salber, On Historical Distance (New Haven, 2013).

23 Shiebinger, Londa, Plants and Empire: Colonial Bioprospecting in the Atlantic World (Cambridge, MA., 2004); and Ogborn, Miles, “Talking Plants: Botany and Speech in Eighteenth-Century Jamaica”, History of Science, 51 (2013), 251–82.

24 Tobin, Beth Fowkes, “Imperial Designs: Botanical Illustration and the British Botanic Empire”, Studies in Eighteenth-Century Culture, 25 (1996), 265–92.

25 Drayton, Richard, Nature's Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the “Improvement” of the World (New Haven, 2000); and Shiebinger, Londa and Swann, Claudia, eds., Colonial Botany: Science, Politics, and Commerce in the Early Modern World (Philadelphia, 2007).

26 Chakrabarti, Pratik, Materials and Medicine: Trade, Conquest and Therapeutics in the Eighteenth Century (Manchester, 2010).

27 For Kew see Drayton, Nature's Government; for a discussion of Thomas Thistlewood's gardens on Jamaican pens and plantations see Ogborn, “Talking Plants”.

28 Casid, Jill, Sowing Empire: Landscape and Colonization (Minneapolis, 2005).

29 Ibid., 9.

30 Shiebinger, Plants and Empire.

31 Hughes, Griffith, The Natural History of Barbados (London, 1750).

32 William Wright, “Hortus Jamaciensis”, 3 vols. Royal Botanic Gardens, Edinburgh.

33 [Arthur Broughton], Hortus Eastensis: Or, A Catalogue of Exotic Plants in the Garden of Hinton East, Esq. In the Mountains of Liguanea, in the Island of Jamaica, At the Time of his Decease. To which are added, Their English Names, Native Places of Growth, by Whom Introduced into the Country, and as far as can be Ascertained the Epoch of their Introduction (Kingston, Jamaica, 1792).

34 Ogborn, “Talking Plants”.

35 [Thomas Dancer], Catalogue of Plants, Exotic and Indigenous, in the Botanical Garden, Jamaica (St Jago de la Vega, Jamaica, 1792). For the obelisk's placement see Thomas Dancer to Edward Long, 24 July 1789, British Library Additional Manuscripts 22678, f. 14v.

36 Burnard, Trevor, Mastery, Tyranny, and Desire: Thomas Thistlewood and His Slaves in the Anglo-Jamaican World (Chapel Hill, 2004); Hall, Douglas, In Miserable Slavery: Thomas Thistlewood in Jamaica, 1750–1786 (Kingston, Jamaica, 1999); Ogborn, “Talking Plants”.

37 Thomas Thistlewood to Edward Long, 17 June 1776, British Library Additional Manuscripts 18275A, ff. 120v and 121r.

38 Carney, Judith A. and Rosomoff, Richard Nicholas, In the Shadow of Slavery: Africa's Botanical Legacy in the Atlantic World (Berkeley, 2009).

39 Sloane, Voyage to Jamaica, 1: Sig B2.

40 Parrish, Susan Scott, American Curiosity: Cultures of Natural History in the Colonial British Atlantic World (Chapel Hill, 2006); Parrish, “Diasporic African Sources of Enlightenment Knowledge”, in Delbourgo, James and Dew, Nicholas, eds., Science and Empire in the Atlantic World (New York, 2008), 281310.

41 Murphy, Kathleen S., “Translating the Vernacular: Indigenous and African Knowledge in the Eighteenth-Century British Atlantic”, Atlantic Studies, 8 (2011), 2948.

42 [Broughton], Hortus Eastensis, 10.

43 Long, Edward, The History of Jamaica. Or, General Survey of the Antient and Modern State of That Island: with Reflections on its Situation, Settlements, Inhabitants, Climate, Products, Commerce, Laws, and Government, 3 vols. (London, 1774), 2: 381.

44 Fryer, Peter, Staying Power: The History of Black People in Britain (London, 1984), 70.

45 Long, History of Jamaica, 2: 370, original emphasis.

46 Leclerc, Georges Louis, Buffon, Comte de, Barr's Buffon. Buffon's Natural History, 10 vols. (London, 1792), 9: 138, quoted in Salih, Sara, “Filling up the Space between Mankind and Ape: Racism, Speciesism and the Androphilic Ape”, Ariel: A Review of International English Literature, 38 (2007), 95111, 104–5.

47 Long, History of Jamaica, 2: 369, original emphasis.

48 In the copy of Long's History of Jamaica in British Library Additional Manuscripts 12405 f. 284 (II, 364).

49 Long, History of Jamaica, 2: 364.

50 Rousseau, Jean-Jacques, Discourse on the Origin of Inequality (Indianapolis, 1992), 81, 83.

51 Ibid., 83.

52 Burnett, James, Monboddo, Lord, Of the Origin and Progress of Language, vol. 1 (Edinburgh, 1773), 1 and 2.

53 On beavers see ibid., 283–5.

54 Ibid., 335.

55 Ibid., 2, original emphasis.

56 Ibid., 238.

57 Ibid., 289. For discussion of this see Livingstone, David N., Adam's Ancestors: Race, Religion and the Politics of Human Origins (Baltimore, 2008).

58 Monboddo, Of the Origin and Progress of Language, 174–6.

59 Long, History of Jamaica, 2: 371 n. f. The term in Latin is from Horace.

60 Ibid., 2: 371, original emphasis.

61 Rousseau, Discourse on the Origins of Inequality. For discussion of the idea of the philosophical traveller see Safier, Neil, Measuring the New World: Enlightenment Science and South America (Chicago, 2008).

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Modern Intellectual History
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