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Building authority: botanical workers in the British Empire, 1770s to the 1820s

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In the late 18th century, growing numbers of botanical workers toiled in government service across the British Empire. These naturalists interacted with people from many different social groups, both inside and outside the scientific community, as they managed botanic gardens or roamed to collect plants. Though backed by patrons in Britain, colonial naturalists lacked social status and found that patronage and appreciation of their skill did not always travel with them. Overcoming obstructive and sceptical local officials and elites was a persistent challenge. Because authority without elevated rank creates ambiguities, colonial naturalists were men out of place. This talk will explore how authority is built in the intertwined worlds of science and governance by uncovering how colonial naturalists carved out a space for botanical work in the empire.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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