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Jim EndersbyImperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science

University of Chicago Press, 2008

by Carla Nappi on May 23, 2012

Jim Endersby

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I love reading, I love reading history, and I especially love reading history books written by authors who understand how to tell a good story. In addition to being beautifully written, Imperial Nature: Joseph Hooker and the Practices of Victorian Science (University of Chicago Press, 2008) does a wonderful job of keeping readers engaged with the story of Joseph Hooker – his travels, his personal and professional battles, his friendships – while offering a thoughtful account of the practices of Victorian science that sustained his life and work. You will not just find texts in this story. It is also full of paper and lenses, leather and wood, paint and pencils, arguing for the importance of a material history of science, and of botany in particular. Jim Endersby ranges with the characters in his book from the Antarctic to Kew Gardens, and helps us understand how the consequences of empire shaped the emergence of a scientific profession in Hooker’s lifetime. This will be required reading for scholars of Victorian science, of natural history, and of the history of imperial science, but it will also reward any reader interested in a compelling story written by a writer’s writer. It was a pleasure to read, and equally a pleasure to talk with Jim about it.

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