(Residential Fellow, 2017-18)
The Texture of Empire: British Colonial Botanic Gardens and the Uses of Science in the Late-18th and Early-19th Centuries
J’Nese Williams is a doctoral candidate studying the History of Science and Modern British History at Vanderbilt University under the supervision of Dr. James Epstein and Dr. Alistair Sponsel.
Her dissertation, “The Texture of Empire: British Colonial Botanic Gardens, Science, and Colonial Administration,” uses local activities of the British colonial gardens as a window into the operation of empire and government support of science in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries. J’Nese is interested in the ways that the gardens responded to the needs of their local communities and the impact of these local programs on the perceived success or failure of individual gardens. Her dissertation also looks closely at botanic garden workers, including individuals of low social status, enslaved and free, whose botanical expertise led to recognition for themselves and for the gardens as scientific institutions.
J’Nese will spend the 2017-2018 year in residence as a fellow at the Humanities Institute at the New York Botanical Garden and the Linda Hall Library. She intends to consult the Linda Hall Library’s collection of nineteenth century botanical periodicals and transactions of scientific societies to investigate the connections between botanists working in Britain and the colonies. The LHL’s holdings of floras and secondary literature on botanical art will help her broaden her dissertation’s coverage of the colonial gardens’ artists and the importance of botanical drawings to naturalists in the colonial context. The general History of Science literature housed at the LHL will prove invaluable to her as she seeks to situate her study with respect to recent conversations in the History of Science and the history of colonial botany.