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Colonialism and Science

Saint Domingue and the Old Regime

How was the character of science shaped by the colonial experience? In turn, how might we make sense of how science contributed to colonialism? Saint Domingue (now Haiti) was the world’s richest colony in the eighteenth century and home to an active society of science—one of only three in the world, at that time. In this deeply researched and pathbreaking study of the colony, James E. McClellan III first raised his incisive questions about the relationship between science and society that historians of the colonial experience are still grappling with today. Long considered rare, the book is now back in print in an English-language edition, accompanied by a new foreword by Vertus Saint-Louis, a native of Haiti and a widely-acknowledged expert on colonialism. Frequently cited as the crucial starting point in understanding the Haitian revolution, Colonialism and Science will be welcomed by students and scholars alike.

“By deftly weaving together imperialism and science in the story of French colonialism, [McClellan] . . . brings to light the history of an almost forgotten colony.”—Journal of Modern History

“McClellan has produced an impressive case study offering excellent surveys of Saint Domingue’s colonial history and its history of science.”—Isis


416 pages | 24 figures, 4 maps, 4 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1992, 2010

History: History of Technology, Latin American History

History of Science

Table of Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements
Note on Weights, Measures, Currency

Introduction: The Case of Saint Domingue

Part 1. Eighteenth-Century Saint Domingue: The Old Regime in the Tropics
1. Material Factors
2. Historical Development
3. Population and Sociology
4. Industry and Economy
5.The Urban Context

Part 2. Science in a New World Setting
6. Missionary Naturalists
7. Expeditions to Saint Domingue
8. Medicine and Medical Administration
9. Economic Botany and Animal Economy
10. Meteorology and Popular Science

Part 3. The Cercle des Philadelphes
11. Origins: Science or Freemasonry
12. Milestones on the Road to Recognition
13. On to Letters Patent
14. Profile of an Institution
15. The Fall of the Societe Royal of Cap Francois

Conclusions: Science and Colonial Development

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