Conquering nature in Spain and its empire, 1750-1850

By Helen Cowie

Conquering nature in Spain and its empire, 1750-1850

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-0-7190-8493-5
  • Pages: 256
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £85.00
  • Published Date: September 2011
  • BIC Category: History, Modern History, Spain, Portugal, History, European history, HISTORY / Europe / General, HISTORY / Europe / Spain & Portugal, Humanities / European history, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


This book examines the study of natural history in the Spanish empire in the years 1750-1850. During this period, Spain made strenuous efforts to survey, inventory and exploit the natural productions of her overseas possessions, orchestrating a serries of scientific expeditions and cultivating and displaying American fauna and flora in metropolitan gardens and museums. This book assesses the cultural significance of natural history, emphasising the figurative and utilitarian value with which eighteenth-century Spaniards invested natural objects, from globetrotting elephants to three-legged chickens. It considers how the creation, legitimisation and dissemination of scientific knowledge reflected broader questions of imperial power and national identity.

This book will be of particular interest to scholars and students of Spanish and Latin American History, the History of Science and Imperial Culture


A cogent and well-rounded account of the new imperial and colonial cultures of natural history in the Spanish Empire.'
Jorge Ca~Nizares-Esguerra, American Historical Review, vol 118, no 1, February 2013

In her though provoking analysis, (...) Cowie shows that at the end of the eighteenth century the conquest of nature in the Spanish Empire was similar to that undertaken in other other European empires, but that communications between Spanish American naturalists as well as their connection to the outside world were more difficult and the number of publications smaller.

'thought-provoking analysis... [a] clear and concise book'


1. Morals and monuments
2. Sloth bones and anteater tongues
3. Nature on display
4. Peripheral vision
5. The creole conundrum
6. Civilisation and barbarism
7. Naturalistes sans frontières


Helen Cowie is a Research Fellow in History at the University of Plymouth.

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