To Make Florida Answer to Its Name: John Ellis, Bernard Romans and the Atlantic Science of British West Florida
Published in The British Journal for the History of Science, Volume 47, Issue 1, March 1, 2014, pages 43-65.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/10.1017/S0007087412000714.
As the royal agent for British West Florida and an avid naturalist, John Ellis, FRS, took a keen interest in both the scientific and the commercial potential of the nascent colony. This article explores how Ellis and his West Floridian correspondent Bernard Romans illuminate the social and material practices of colonial science. In particular, it builds on recent scholarship to argue that new natural knowledge about West Florida did not simply circulate in the Atlantic World, but was in fact engendered by the movement of objects and ideas through the many circuits of transatlantic natural history and imperial administration. Foregrounding the Atlantic nature of such knowledge also raises questions about the limits of the categories of centre and periphery so frequently employed by historians of colonial science. Colonists such as Romans understood London to be just one centre amongst many and asserted their own epistemological claims, despite the asymmetries of power inherent to colonial science.