Article ID: CBB001320636

Collecting Slave Traders: James Petiver, Natural History, and the British Slave Trade (2013)


The natural history collections belonging to London apothecary James Petiver reveal the entangled histories of science and the slave trade in the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century British Atlantic. Naturalists such as Petiver exploited the routes of the slave trade to acquire natural curiosities and natural knowledge from West Africa, Spanish America, and British America. Petiver recruited British ship surgeons and captains employed on slaving vessels and at British factories to gather insects, plants, shells, and other specimens in West Africa and in American ports of disembarkation. The asiento agreement, with its extension of British slaving into Spanish America, allowed others to collect specimens from a region typically off-limits to British naturalists. Distinctive aspects of the British slave trade, including its geographies, its personnel, and its extension into Spanish America after the assumption of the asiento, shaped both Petiver's collection of naturalia and the natural knowledge that resulted from it. Petiver's museum suggests that we must look to the slave trade not only to understand the Atlantic world but also to understand early modern science. By so doing, we may discover that Europe's profits from the slave trade include gains not easily quantified.

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Authors & Contributors
MacLeod, Roy M.
Murphy, Kathleen S.
Delbourgo, James
Pimentel, Juan
McClellan, James E., III
Regourd, François
Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of the History of Science
Archives of Natural History
Isis: International Review Devoted to the History of Science and Its Cultural Influences
Cuadernos Dieciochistas: revista consagrada al estudio de la historia, el pensamiento, la literatura, el arte y la ciencia del siglo XVIII
Journal of the History of Collections
Early American Studies
Univ. Chicago Press
Manchester University Press
Oxford University Press
Reaktion Books
Rutgers University
Natural history
Great Britain, colonies
Collectors and collecting
Petiver, James
Brickell, John
Catesby, Mark
Mutis, José Celestino
Schomburgk, Robert Hermann
Salvador i Riera, Joan
Great Britain
London (England)
Latin America
North America
18th century
17th century
19th century
20th century, early
Early modern
British Museum. Natural History
Hollandsche Maatschappij der Wetenschappen
East India Company (English)

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