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Cambridge University Herbarium


The Age of Revolutions

Researcher: Edwin Rose (Department of History & Philosophy of Science)

The mid-18th and 19th centuries were a tumultous era of change, a time of imperial expansion and political revolution. Historical herbarium specimens can shed light on how naturalists were operating against this backdrop of global upheaval.

Edwin is using our earliest specimens as a core resource for his recently awarded two year AHRC Early Career Fellowship "Natural History in the Age of Revolutions, 1775-1848". Involving colleagues in Cambridge, London, Otago, and Sydney, the project focuses on the importance of natural history collections during the 18th and 19th centuries. Edwin and his colleagues will investigate the role of natural history in mediating between conflicting political agendas of indigenous groups and metropolitan elites across the British Empire, and the development of global information flow, material culture, and an ethos of public service. A range of outputs, including a co-authored illustrated book aimed at a broader public audience, an academic workshop, and public engagement events are planned with this project.

This project builds on Edwin’s 2020-21 University Library Munby Fellowship which examined the 18th century collections of Cambridge Professors of Botany, John and Thomas Martyn.

Watch Edwin Rose’s video about Botany in 18th Century Cambridge on our YouTube channel.