James Petiver’s ‘Kind Friends’ and ‘Curious Persons’ in the Atlantic World: Commerce, Colonialism and Collecting
Published in Notes and Records: The Royal Society Journal of The History of Science, Volume 74, Issue 2, October 23, 2019.
The definitive version is available at https://doi.org/https://doi.org/10.1098/rsnr.2019.0011.
In 1695, James Petiver concluded the first ‘century’ of his Musei Petiveriani by observing that he had received the specimens described within it from his ‘Kind Friends from divers parts of the World’ and ‘Curious Persons…Abroad’. This essay examines Petiver’s network of such ‘Kind Friends’ and ‘Curious Persons’ in the Atlantic World. The composition of Petiver’s network reflected many of the broader patterns of English commerce in the Atlantic at the turn of the eighteenth century. Moreover, England’s growing overseas empire and its expanding commercial activity required a parallel expansion in maritime labour. Mariners were correspondingly central to Petiver’s work as a naturalist and collector in the region. The importance of slavery and the slave trade to Atlantic economic and social structures meant that the naturalist relied on the institutions, infrastructures and individuals of the slave trade and plantation slavery. A social history of Petiver’s Atlantic network reveals how the naturalist utilized the routes of commerce and colonialism to collect specimens, as well as to collect the correspondents who might provide them from West Africa, Spanish America, the Caribbean and mainland North America. It demonstrates the entangled histories of commerce, colonialism, collecting and the production of natural knowledge.
© 2019 The Author(s) Published by the Royal Society
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