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Look Inside Inventing the Indigenous

Inventing the Indigenous
Local Knowledge and Natural History in Early Modern Europe


  • Author: Alix Cooper, State University of New York, Stony Brook
  • Date Published: December 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521124010

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About the Authors
  • In the wake of expanding commercial voyages, many people in early modern Europe became curious about the plants and minerals around them and began to compile catalogues of them. Drawing on cultural, social and environmental history, as well as the histories of science and medicine, this book argues that, amidst a growing reaction against exotic imports - whether medieval spices like cinnamon or new American arrivals like chocolate and tobacco - learned physicians began to urge their readers to discover their own 'indigenous' natural worlds. In response, compilers of local inventories created numerous ways of itemising nature, from local floras and regional mineralogies to efforts to write the natural histories of entire territories. Tracing the fate of such efforts, the book provides insight into the historical trajectory of such key concepts as indigeneity and local knowledge.

    • Examines a series of sources - local floras, regional mineralogies - that have rarely, if ever, been studied before
    • Sheds light on the origins of modern science in early modern Europe
    • Explains how it was that many aspects of the neoteric world (rise of environmental science, inventory of planet's species) came to be
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    Reviews & endorsements

    Review of the hardback: 'Cooper has produced a succinct and judicious study that contributes much to our understanding of the development of natural history and environmentalism in Europe. It is a powerful reminder of how patriotism and suspicions about the global economy of the day created a movement to study indigenous expressions of nature. But it also shows how such attempts, when entered into dialogue with studies of the larger natural world, led to the appropriation and silencing of the knowledge of local people. It deserves to be widely read.' Harold J. Cook, University College London

    Review of the hardback: 'Finally a book that explains the rich cultural history of the "indigenous." Cooper's book is smart, highly readable, and a treasure trove of information for understanding how Early Modern Europeans viewed nature in their own backyard.' Londa Schiebinger, Stanford University

    Review of the hardback: 'Inventing the Indigenous is well researched and Copper's chapter cross space and time in an attempt to trace the development and significance of local floras to the communities that developed them …The themes explored in the book are relevant for a breadth of disciplines beyond the history if science, dealing with themes of defining local difference and divergent cultural views of the expanding world in an age of exploration and discovery.' Journal of Archaeological Science

    Review of the hardback: '…engaging…well-written…' The Society for the History of Natural History

    Review of the hardback: 'Cooper's excellent book brings to life the European side of the 'quarrel between the 'indigenous' and the 'exotic'' and shows how productive it was for the study of nature in the early modern period.' Journal of Central European History

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    Product details

    • Date Published: December 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521124010
    • length: 236 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.35kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    List of illustrations
    1. Home and the world: debating indigenous nature
    2. Field and garden: the making of local flora
    3. From rocks to riches: the quest for natural wealth
    4. The nature of the territory
    5. Problems of local knowledge
    Works cited.

  • Author

    Alix Cooper, State University of New York, Stony Brook

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