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When commerce, science, and leisure collaborated: the nineteenth-century global trade boom in natural history collections*

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 October 2017

Anne Coote
School of Humanities, University of New England, Armidale, NSW 2351, Australia E-mail:
Alison Haynes
School of Biological Sciences, Faculty of Science, Medicine and Health, University of Wollongong, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia E-mail:
Jude Philp
Macleay Museum, University of Sydney, Camperdown NSW 2006Australia E-mail:
Simon Ville*
School of Humanities and Social Inquiry, Faculty of Law, Humanities and the Arts, University of Wollongong, Wollongong NSW 2522, Australia
Corresponding author. E-mail:


Natural history products formed an important, but little studied, component of the globalization of trade in the mid nineteenth century. The trade, specifically in zoology, occurred in the face of considerable challenges. It penetrated some of the more remote areas of the globe; its products were heterogeneous and difficult to price; and exchange occurred among scientists, commercial traders, and collectors, each of whom had their own particular practices and mores. This article charts the dimensions of this trade and offers explanations about the ways in which its complexities were addressed through major developments in taxidermy, taxonomy, transport and business logistics, alternative forms of exchange, and trust-based networks. More broadly, our work speaks to current developments in global history, imperial networks, and the history of scientific collecting.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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We acknowledge valuable feedback from members of the Colonial and Settlers Studies reading group at Wollongong, particularly Jane Carey, Julia Martinez, Claire Lowrie, and Claire Wright. Dierdre Coleman, Jan Brazier, Michael Quinnell, and Anthony Gill also offered valuable insights. An earlier version of this article was presented to the ‘Colonial Formations: Connections and Collisions’ conference at the University of Wollongong in November 2016. The editors and two referees are also thanked for their very helpful comments. Claire Wright assisted in the preparation of this article.


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