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Palgrave Macmillan

Shaping Natural History and Settler Society

Mary Elizabeth Barber and the Nineteenth-Century Cape

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  • Open Access
  • © 2019

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  • Explores the intertwined relationship between science, gender and settler colonialism in the nineteenth century
  • Reconstructs the neglected history of Mary Elizabeth Barber’s scientific work in South Africa, shining light on the work of an important woman naturalist
  • Contributes to growing research on the involvement of the South in global knowledge networks and the role of knowledge production in colonial dispossession

Part of the book series: Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies (CIPCSS)

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Table of contents (11 chapters)

  1. African Experts and Science in the Cape

  2. From Providing Data to Forging New Practices and Theories


About this book

This book explores the life and work of Mary Elizabeth Barber, a British-born settler scientist who lived in the Cape during the nineteenth century. It provides a lens into a range of subjects within the history of knowledge and science, gender and social history, postcolonial, critical heritage and archival studies. The book examines the international importance of the life and works of a marginalized scientist, the instrumentalisation of science to settlers' political concerns and reveals the pivotal but largely silenced contribution of indigenous African experts. Including a variety of material, visual and textual sources, this study explores how these artefacts are archived and displayed in museums and critically analyses their content and silences. The book traces Barber’s legacy across three continents in collections and archives, offering insights into the politics of memory and history-making. At the same time, it forges a nuanced argument, incorporating study of the North and South, the history of science and social history, and the past and the present.

Authors and Affiliations

  • Department of History, University of Basel, Basel, Switzerland

    Tanja Hammel

About the author

Tanja Hammel works in the History Department at the University of Zurich, Switzerland. Her PhD dissertation, on which this monograph is based, received the annual faculty award for the humanities at the University of Basel in 2018.

Bibliographic Information

  • Book Title: Shaping Natural History and Settler Society

  • Book Subtitle: Mary Elizabeth Barber and the Nineteenth-Century Cape

  • Authors: Tanja Hammel

  • Series Title: Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies

  • DOI:

  • Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan Cham

  • eBook Packages: History, History (R0)

  • Copyright Information: The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s) 2019

  • Hardcover ISBN: 978-3-030-22638-1Published: 24 August 2019

  • Softcover ISBN: 978-3-030-22641-1Published: 25 August 2020

  • eBook ISBN: 978-3-030-22639-8Published: 23 August 2019

  • Series ISSN: 2635-1633

  • Series E-ISSN: 2635-1641

  • Edition Number: 1

  • Number of Pages: XXIV, 360

  • Number of Illustrations: 18 b/w illustrations

  • Topics: History of Science, Imperialism and Colonialism, History of Sub-Saharan Africa, Gender and Sexuality

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