Matthew Crawford

Matthew Crawford

Herdegen Fellow, 2010-2011

Matthew Crawford is a Herdegen Fellow in the History of Scientific Information. He received his Ph.D. in history and science studies from the University of California, San Diego, and is currently an assistant professor in the Department of History at Kent State University in Ohio. Matt is currently working on a book manuscript that examines the relationship between science and empire in the late-18th-century Spanish Atlantic World through the lens of the Spanish Crown’s efforts to monopolize quina, a medicinal tree bark from South America that in the early 19th century gave rise to the antimalarial drug quinine. So far, Matt’s research interests have taken him to Seville, Madrid, Quito, and Bogotá. He is delighted to add Philadelphia to the list.                                

Current Research

Matt will use his time at CHF to further understand and explore the role of chemistry in the Spanish Empire during the 18th century. Like most European states during the Enlightenment, the Spanish Crown included science as a key component in its various efforts to reform its imperial enterprise. Revitalization through increased commerce was a central goal, and, to this end, the Crown and its advisers relied heavily on naturalists to collect and classify the potential botanical wealth of the American territories. Not surprisingly, botany has received the majority of the attention in historical scholarship on science and empire in the 18th-century Spanish Atlantic. Yet, while botany played a central role in the classification of American nature, other sciences, notably chemistry, played a central role in the transformation of American nature into commodities. This project seeks to understand the extent to which the methodologies and epistemologies of early modern chemistry informed the perspectives and practices of various scientific practitioners employed by the 18th-century Spanish imperial state. Starting with the various references to a myriad of early modern chemical texts found in manuscripts and printed books from chemical practitioners in 18th-century Spain and Spanish America, Matt will make use of CHF’s extensive holdings in early-modern chemical texts to attempt to reconstruct the intellectual genealogy and worldview of chemical practitioners in the Spanish Atlantic World. Ultimately, this project seeks to answer the question of the extent to which we have underappreciated the role of chemistry in the Spanish imperial enterprise.

Recent Publications

“A ‘Reasoned Proposal’ against ‘Vain Science’: Creole Negotiations of an Atlantic Medicament in the Audiencia of Quito (1779–1792).”  Atlantic Studies. (Forthcoming)

 “Science as Statecraft: Imperial Ideology, Botany, and Monopoly in the Spanish Atlantic World (1742–1790).” In The Wealth of All the World: The Commercial Gaze in the Long Eighteenth Century. Edited by Michael Rotenberg-Schwartz and Tara Czechowski. New York: Abrahams Magazine Service (AMS) Press. (Forthcoming)

“‘Para Desterrar las Dudas y Adulteraciones: Scientific Expertise and the Attempts to Make a Better Bark for the Royal Monopoly of Quina (1751–1790).” Journal of Spanish Cultural Studies 8:2 (2007), 193–212.

Fellowships at CHF


CHF’s scholars, who spend anywhere from one to nine months in residence, form a vital part of CHF’s intellectual life.