in Conquering nature in Spain and its empire, 1750–1850
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The late eighteenth century witnessed a growing engagement with natural history in Spain and its American colonies. This engagement was supported financially and institutionally by the Spanish Crown, which orchestrated scientific expeditions, patronised aspiring naturalists and founded museums and botanical gardens. For the Spanish Government, natural history offered a new and enticing source of national glory and material wealth. The collection, classification and exhibition of natural objects had an important figurative value for the ability to amass specimens from across the globe symbolised both the extension of Spain's empire and the effectiveness of its bureaucracy. From the metropolitan centre, the enterprise of natural history collection and classification represented an exercise in economic rejuvenation and imperial posturing. Imperial implosion severed important ties with Europe, disrupting commerce and scholarly networks.


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