From history of science to history of knowledge?

Themes and perspectives in colonial Australasia

Authored by: James Beattie , Ruth A. Morgan

The Routledge Handbook of Science and Empire

Print publication date:  July  2021
Online publication date:  July  2021

Print ISBN: 9780367221256
eBook ISBN: 9780429273360
Adobe ISBN:


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This overview presents some of the main approaches to histories of colonial science in Australasia as well as suggesting future areas of research. Given the plurality of knowledge systems in the colonial period, the authors argue that a framework defined by history of knowledge, rather than history of science, better reflects the realities of colonial Australasia and opens up opportunities for fresh and innovative scholarship. A history of knowledge systems approach, they contend, has the potential to free the study of non-Western knowledge systems from normative approaches that define any other system in relation to Western science. A history of knowledge approach, they believe, enables scholars to shed light on the complex ways in which knowledge making in colonial Australasia arose from both Indigenous and non-Indigenous traditions, perspectives, and practices.

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