Arguing that the early Royal Society moved science toward racialization by giving skin color a new prominence as an object of experiment and observation, Cristina Malcolmson provides the first book-length examination of studies of skin color in the Society. She also brings new light to the relationship between early modern literature, science, and the establishment of scientific racism in the nineteenth century. Malcolmson demonstrates how unstable the idea of race remained in England at the end of the seventeenth century, and yet how extensively the intertwined institutions of government, colonialism, the slave trade, and science were collaborating to usher it into public view. Malcolmson places the genre of the voyage to the moon in the context of early modern discourses about human difference, and argues that Cavendish’s Blazing World and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels satirize the Society’s emphasis on skin color.
Contents: Introduction; Race and the experimental method in the Society; Discussions of race and the emergence of polygenesis in the Society; Boyle, Biblical monogenesis, and slavery; Race, gender, and the response to Boyle in Cavendish’s Blazing World; Race, gender, and the imagination in the Philosophical Transactions; Gulliver’s Travels and studies of skin color in the Society; Conclusion: The Royal Society and Atlantic studies; Appendix: Jonathan Swift's debt to Margaret Cavendish; Bibliography; Index.
About the Author: Cristina Malcolmson is Professor of English at Bates College, USA.
Reviews: '...offers an original, nuanced, and deeply compelling investigation into the pre-history of modern understandings of race. … Combining a meticulous attention to 17th century theories such as pre-Adamism and polygenesis with a careful regard to the institutional trappings of the new science, this study reveals how material practices, such as colonialism, gender politics and of course the brutalities of the slave trade, were bound up with the scientific practice of Boyle and others.'Patricia Cahill, Emory University, USA
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