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Cultivating curiosities: Plants as collections in the eighteenth century

Moss, Suzanne (2018) Cultivating curiosities: Plants as collections in the eighteenth century. PhD thesis, University of York.

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Abstract

Gardens and plants were popular subjects for recreation and scholarship in eighteenth-century Britain. Wealth was invested into the creation of elaborate pleasure grounds, newly introduced exotic plants were purchased and cultivated with relish and extensive collections of dried plants were collated. Studies of eighteenth-century botany, horticulture and gardens have diverged in current research, creating a split in ideological interpretations of plants, their taxonomical systems and the gardens in which they were cultivated. The well-preserved archive at Burton Constable Hall in East Yorkshire provides a unique perspective on gardens, indoor and outdoor collections which can help to unite isolated historical disciplines into a cohesive narrative. Enlightenment ideals, the Baconian system of inductive reasoning and a new, empirical approach to natural philosophy had created a new, scientifically-based, eighteenth-century culture in which botany could flourish. Seventeenth-century scientists had proven that an empirical approach could transform a human understanding of the world, and publications, societies and coffee houses made their discoveries popular. The cabinets of curiosity held for wonder and exoticism became assemblages of natural philosophy which could help to order and understand the world through observation and classification. Scholarship and collection became fashionable, and a means of making new connections and forging social identities. Plants held economic, medicinal and social potential, and were at the forefront of this development. This thesis will discuss the evidence at Burton Constable and related case studies to demonstrate that plants were part of the tradition of collecting a cabinet of natural philosophy in the eighteenth century, and that by considering them as such we can take a new, holistic approach to their cultivation and to the pleasure ground which should influence future interpretations of eighteenth-century gardens.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Academic Units: The University of York > Archaeology (York)
Depositing User: Miss Suzanne Moss
Date Deposited: 04 Jun 2019 13:44
Last Modified: 04 Jun 2019 13:44
URI: http://etheses.whiterose.ac.uk/id/eprint/24026

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