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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, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in CHSO for personal use.date: 26 May 2022

Experiments All for Worldly Gain

Experiments All for Worldly Gain

(p.63) 3 Experiments All for Worldly Gain
The Nature of the Future

Emily Pawley

University of Chicago Press

Chapter 3 explores the forms of experiment particular to agricultural improvement by looking at the genres of experimental writing. It examines the wider culture of experiment in the early republic and connects it to the broader culture of legal trials. It traces the outline of the genre of improving experiments by working backward from a parody, and finds the origins of the genre both in broader histories of experiment and in the experimental literature of 18th-century British improvement. Improving experiments resembled experiments in natural science in their practice of virtual witnessing, but had a different reliance on the particularities of place. The chapter argues that while improvers appeared as actors in their own experimental reports (a form of conspicuous production) they used experimental forms to publicly appropriate the knowledge of enslaved people, indigenous peoples, laborers, and family members. It also shows how central profit became as an epistemological category; accounts showing the profitability of the experiment itself became central to truth claims. Finally the chapter suggests that the modern field trial, long seen as a concession to farmers who opposed "book farming" was in fact a continuation of this older formal tradition.

Keywords:   history of experiment, agricultural improvement, virtual witnessing, appropriation, agricultural science

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