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




Author: -
Type: eBook
Date Released: 2004
Format: pdf
Language: English
Page Count: 268
Isbn10 Code: 0674011430
Isbn13 Code: 9780674011434


Review Fa-ti Fan's study of the encounter between the British culture of the naturalist and the Chinese culture of the Qing is both a delight and a revelation. The topic has scarcely been addressed by historians of science, and this work fills important gaps in our knowledge of British scientific practice in a noncolonial context and of Chinese reactions to Western science in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In addition to the culture of Victorian naturalists and Sinology, Fan shows an admirable grasp of visual representation in science, Chinese taxonomic schemes, Chinese export art, British imperial scholarship, and journeys of exploration. His treatment of the China trade and descriptions of Chinese markets and nurseries are especially welcome. I learned a great deal, and I strongly recommend this book. --Philip Rehbock, author of Philosophical Naturalists: Themes in Early Nineteenth-Century British Biology (20070101) By focusing on the experiences of British naturalists in China during a time when it was gradually being opened up to foreign influences, Fan makes at least two important contributions to history of science: He gives us an authoritative study of British naturalists in China (as far as I know the only one of its kind), and he forces us to rethink some of our categories for doing history of science, including how we conceive of the relationship between science and imperialism, and between Western naturalist and native. Fan's scholarship is meticulous, with careful attention to detail, and his prose is clear, controlled, and succinct. --Bernard Lightman, editor of Victorian Science in Context 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 ) 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 ) About the Author Fa-ti Fan is Assistant Professor of History at the State University of New York at Binghamton.

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