Mining Empire, Planting Empire: The Colonial Scientific Literatures of the Americas Public Deposited

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  • March 20, 2019
  • Bigelow, Allison
    • Affiliation: College of Arts and Sciences, Department of English and Comparative Literature
  • "Mining Empire, Planting Empire" examines the literary roots and settler ideologies of the colonial scientific discourses of Anglo and Iberian America. Agriculture and mining are the foundational material practices of settlement. Without the former, there is no food to sustain a population, and without the latter there are no farming tools. But they are more than just key nodes of scientific improvement; they are also the discursive forms that perform the cultural work of the largest empires of the seventeenth-century Atlantic world. By comparing the scientific theories and practices explained in technical treatises, instruction manuals, promotional pamphlets, and legal documents, a literary corpus almost as fanciful as the period's works of imaginative fiction, this book argues that English and Spanish writers invoke the terms of colonial agricultural and mineralogical science - planting and possessing, mining and amalgamating - to naturalize their American settlements. Iberian science provided the language of mineral classification, the sorting into "castas" of racialized metales mulatos and negrillos, while the technology of amalgamation underwrote a discourse of purity (limpieza) and incorporation that resonated powerfully in the founding of colonial life. Absent the mineral wealth of Spanish America, Anglo colonists instead engaged the evocative language of agricultural improvement to lay claim to heathen "heaths" and racialized moorlands in England's foreign plantations. Although they drew from two different colonial scientific archives, both Anglo and Iberian colonists enlisted seventeenth-century scientific practices in the rhetorical and material service of empire. This comparative framework of similarity and difference helps us to understand important points of continuity and rupture among and between early American scientific literatures.
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Rights statement
  • In Copyright
  • Gura, Philip F.
  • Perelmuter, Rosa
  • Marr, Timothy
  • Bauer, Ralph
  • Wolfe, Jessica
  • Doctor of Philosophy
Degree granting institution
  • University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill Graduate School
Graduation year
  • 2012
  • This item is restricted from public view for 2 years after publication.

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