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Colonial America presented a new world of natural curiosities for settlers as well as the London-based scientific community. In "American Curiosity", Susan Scott Parrish examines how various people in the British colonies understood and represented the natural world around them from the late sixteenth century through the eighteenth.
Parrish shows how scientific knowledge about America, rather than flowing strictly from metropole to colony, emerged from a horizontal exchange of information across the Atlantic. Parrish uncovers early descriptions of American natural phenomena as well as clues to how people in the colonies construed their own identities through the natural world. Although social hierarchies persisted within the natural history community, the contributions of any participant were considered valuable as long as they supplied novel data or specimens from America. Thus Anglo-American non-elites, women, Indians, and enslaved Africans all played crucial roles in gathering and relaying new information to Europe. "American Curiosity" enlarges our notions of the scientific Enlightenment by looking beyond European centers to find a socially inclusive American base to a true transatlantic expansion of knowledge.