Botany as useful knowledge: French global plant collecting at the end of the old regime

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This chapter explores the intersections between histories of knowledge and global histories of the eighteenth century. Its particular interest is in understanding how the historiographical attention to the ways in which information was accumulated and applied has refined our understanding of the relationship between Europe and the wider world. The first two sections of the chapter examine a pair of debates which, although closely related, have traditionally been treated separately by historians: (1) the shifting debates surrounding the collection, circulation and application of data described as “useful knowledge”; (2) work done within the history of science on the European collection, circulation and application of scientific knowledge from (or within) spaces beyond Europe. The chapter then uses a set of empirical case studies drawn from across the Indian and Pacific Oceans concerning the history of natural history collecting. These lead to suggestions for how these apparently disparate areas of research might be connected further, in order to enhance our understanding of the global eighteenth century.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationRe-Inventing the Economic History of Industrialisation
EditorsKristine Bruland, Anne Gerritsen, Pat Hudson, Giorgio Riello
Place of PublicationMontreal
PublisherMcGill-Queen's University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780228002079
ISBN (Print)9780228000914
Publication statusPublished - 26 Mar 2020


  • History of Science
  • Economic history
  • Eighteenth Century studies
  • French history
  • Plant collecting
  • Useful knowledge


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