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Title: Natural philosophy and the origins of the British Empire, c.1600-c.1700
Author: Irving, S. L.
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2007
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This thesis is an attempt to bring the history of early modern science to bear upon the intellectual origins of the British Empire. I argue that there is an intellectual tradition of empire which has been overlooked by British Empire scholarship. This is an idea of man’s empire over the natural world, and stems from the Biblical narrative in the book of Genesis. In the Garden of Eden, God endowed Adam with mastery over the earth which was encapsulated in the command to ‘be fertile and increase, fill the earth and master it; and have an empire over the fish of the sea, the birds of the sky, and all the living things that creep on earth.’ (Gen. 1:28). In the Fall from Eden, however, Adam lost his omniscience, and consequently his earthy dominion. The idea that man’s task was to recover his original empire over nature was developed in a tradition of natural philosophy stretching from Francis Bacon (1561-1626) to John Locke (1632-1704). The thesis investigates whether natural philosophers’ commitment to the restoration of man’s original empire over nature was connected to contemporary ideas of colonial empire-building. In short, what was the relationship between the concepts of geographic empire and man’s plenary dominion over nature? Natural Philosophy and the Origins of the British Empire aims to answer these historical questions by exploring the work of Francis Bacon, the Hartlib Circle, Robert Boyle, the Royal Society of London, and finally, John Locke. This is an interdisciplinary project which takes the form of bringing natural philosophy into the history of the British Empire, and conversely, bringing the concept and origins of the British Empire to bear upon early modern English science.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available