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British Naturalists in Qing China: Science, Empire and Cultural Encounter

By: Fa-ti Fan

238 pages, 14 illus, 3 maps

Harvard University Press

Hardback | Jan 2004 | #142359 | ISBN: 0674011430
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NHBS Price: £55.95 $68/€63 approx

About this book

In the C18-19, Western scientific interest in China focused primarily on natural history, but this activity has been entirely neglected by historians of science. Fa-ti Fan examines the research of British naturalists in China and uses their example to argue for a reinterpretation of the history of natural history, incorporating neglected figures, intellectual traditions and cultural practices.

Fa-ti Fan pursues two mutually supporting goals in this meticulously researched, clearly written, and historiographically sophisticated examination of British naturalists' experiences in nineteenth-century China. The first is to reevaluate the broader formation of natural history. The second is to examine Britain's wider entanglement in China. By combining these objectives under the rubric of "scientific imperialism," he injects life and wider relevance into his vivid exploration of the "symbiotic, even integral, relationship between scientific and imperialist enterprises." The book has much to offer even to those with no particular interest in natural history...Fan's book bursts not only with big ideas, but with many small treats. -- Richard Bellon Victorian Studies British Naturalists in Qing China makes excellent use of a vast array of archival and published material, including Chinese sources. It is clearly written and will be of interest to both academics and general readers concerned with the development of British science and natural history. -- Randall Dodgen British Journal for the History of Science Fan has provided natural history devotees with a treasure trove of information, most of it new to the scholarly world...Perhaps even more importantly, Tan has provided us with a perspective on the reciprocal interaction between these naturalists and the indigenous culture that fascinated them and that was fascinated by them. This type of interpretive framework has been lacking from scholarly work in natural history and Tan should be commended for illustrating how and why this should be done. -- Keith R. Benson History and Philosophy of Life Sciences 20070101 Both sections [of the book] are extremely interesting and well-researched. British Naturalists in Qing China offers fresh insights into the very many aspects of SinoBritish relations. It is particularly timely as China emerges as a world power. -- Ruth Ginsberg SIDA


Acknowledgments Introduction I. The Port 1. Natural History in a Chinese Entrepot 2. Art, Commerce, and Natural History II. The Land 3. Science and Informal Empire 4. Sinology and Natural History 5. Travel and Fieldwork in the Interior Epilogue Appendix: Selected Biographical Notes Abbreviations Notes Index

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Fa-ti Fan is Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

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