Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Hostname: page-component-848d4c4894-m9kch Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-05-18T23:17:36.023Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false

8 - Experience, truth, and natural history in early English gardening books

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  04 August 2010

Donald R. Kelley
Affiliation:
Rutgers University, New Jersey
David Harris Sacks
Affiliation:
Reed College, Oregon
Get access

Summary

For I consider history and experience to be the same thing, as also philosophy and the sciences … History is either Natural or Civil. Natural History treats of the deeds and works of nature; Civil History of those of men.

– Francis Bacon, The Advancement of Learning

In the twentieth century, natural history is understandable as history when it narrates the slow change of species over the millennia. In the early modern period, however, a history of nature meant something different: the story of nature's “deeds and works” seen through the human experience of them. As such, early modern natural history may have been atemporal in form, describing in the moment of writing natural phenomena as people knew them. Yet the writers of those histories understood that people had written differently of nature in past times and separate places. By the seventeenth century, natural historians were asking the same questions that the recorders of civil history posed: What constituted evidence of “historical” truth? Whom should one believe? Was it possible to write a universal history, or did history reside, like truth, only in the particulars?

When Francis Bacon linked history with experience in his Advancement of Learning, he cut to the heart of this debate over truth, imagination, and authority in the writing of natural as well as civil history in England. Bacon himself narrowed the field of authorities on natural history by cutting off both Greek philosophy (for “at that period there was but a narrow and meagre knowledge either of time or place,”) and folk wisdom about the natural world. In The Great Instauration Bacon claimed to be more troubled with them.

Type
Chapter
Information
The Historical Imagination in Early Modern Britain
History, Rhetoric, and Fiction, 1500–1800
, pp. 179 - 209
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 1997

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

Save book to Kindle

To save this book to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

Available formats
×

Save book to Dropbox

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

Available formats
×

Save book to Google Drive

To save content items to your account, please confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

Available formats
×