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The Nature of the FutureAgriculture, Science, and Capitalism in the Antebellum North$
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Emily Pawley

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9780226693835

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: September 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226693972.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM CHICAGO SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.chicago.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright University of Chicago Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 05 August 2021

Bending Reality with Large Strawberries

Bending Reality with Large Strawberries

Chapter:
(p.1) Introduction Bending Reality with Large Strawberries
Source:
The Nature of the Future
Author(s):

Emily Pawley

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226693972.003.0001

The introduction begins by exploring the culture of ‘agricultural giants,’ enormous, precisely-measured animals and plants. These giants were products of a massive, transatlantic culture of knowledge-making: “agricultural improvement.” The introduction traces improvement’s origins in Great Britain and its adoption by wealthy landholders in the U.S. as well as by colonial officials throughout the British Empire. It asserts the centrality of New York State to U.S. improvement, and outlines New Yorkers’ experience of rapid agricultural change in the decades after the opening of the Erie Canal. It describes improvements’ shift from an instrument of landlords’ developmentalism to a much broader community and set of practices. It points to the role of new commercial networks in this expansion, and shows how improving science increasingly created knowledge about goods. Finally the chapter sketches the features of improving science—its focus on the futures that its adherents hoped to create and saw as natural, its dependence on financially-interested experts, its borrowing of forms of credibility from the broader U.S. economy, and its profound questions about the nature of value. In improvement, science did not provide stability, but rather fueled competing stories of the future and volatile and uncertain systems of value.

Keywords:   agricultural history, history of science, history of capitalism, environmental history, agricultural improvement, United States history, Market Revolution, New York State

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