Frontiers of Science

Imperialism and Natural Knowledge in the Gulf South Borderlands, 1500-1850
Cameron B. Strang
Cloth price: $42.50
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Publisher: Omohundro Institute and University of North Carolina Press
Imprint: OIEAHC
Cloth/Hardcover Publication Date: 08/2018
Pages: 376
Cloth ISBN: 9781469640471
Ebook ISBN: 9781469640488


Cameron Strang takes American scientific thought and discoveries away from the learned societies, museums, and teaching halls of the Northeast and puts the production of knowledge about the natural world in the context of competing empires and an expanding republic in the Gulf South. People often dismissed by starched northeasterners as nonintellectuals–Indian sages, African slaves, Spanish officials, Irishmen on the make, clearers of land and drivers of men–were also scientific observers, gatherers, organizers, and reporters. Skulls and stems, birds and bugs, rocks and maps, tall tales and fertile hypotheses came from them. They collected, described, and sent the objects that scientists gazed on and interpreted in polite Philadelphia. They made knowledge.

Frontiers of Science offers a new framework for approaching American intellectual history, one that transcends political and cultural boundaries and reveals persistence across the colonial and national eras. The pursuit of knowledge in the United States did not cohere around democratic politics or the influence of liberty. It was, as in other empires, divided by multiple loyalties and identities, organized through contested hierarchies of ethnicity and place, and reliant on violence. By discovering the lost intellectual history of one region, Strang shows us how to recover a continent for science.

About The Author

Cameron B. Strang is assistant professor of history at the University of Nevada, Reno.


Michael V.R. Thomason Book Award, Gulf Southern Historical Association (2019)

Co-winner, Summerlee Book Prize, Center for History and Culture of Southeast Texas and the Upper Gulf South at Lamar University (2019)


“Uses individual case studies to explore the interconnections and intrigue in the Gulf southwest as Americans forced out those competing for control. . . . Recommended.”–Choice Reviews

“[A] powerful and clear-eyed assessment of both the history and historiography of U.S. science . . . . So carefully and thoroughly researched and situated that it is difficult to know how Strang could have added more to this challenging, crucial contribution to the field.”–Western Historical Quarterly

“A superbly researched and original history of science in early America.”–American Historical Review

“Strang unearths enduring legacies of imperialism, slavery, and violence amid a patchwork of shifting allegiances. . . . Frontiers of Science explodes a view of American science drawn from a limited focus on the urban Northeast. . . . A must-read for Americanists and historians of science alike.”–Reviews in American History

“Among the most ambitious and imaginative studies written so far in this budding field of early American history. . . . It took an especially adventurous and versatile historian to cross the national and linguistic boundaries required to reveal the scope, intensity, and specific contours of imperial dependence on American knowledge.”–William and Mary Quarterly

“Detailed, comprehensive . . . Frontiers of Science is at once a history of competing empires and of colorful personalities.”–Journal of Southern History

“In Frontiers of Science, Cameron Strang creates a new framework for understanding the history of natural knowledge in early North America. . . . One of the many strengths . . . is Strang’s meticulous archival research as he followed the “interesting” (6) and “bizarre” (7) stories of a very diverse cast of historical figures.”–Southwestern Historical Quarterly

“It is not just the ample and striking new evidence that Strang provides that makes this book original and noteworthy. At least as important are the innovative conceptual frameworks he uses and the sophisticated arguments he makes. . . . It is undeniable that Frontiers of Science has provided scholars with a vital and persuasive reframing; it seems likely to become a major landmark in reshaping the historiography of early American science.”–Isis

“Strang’s captivating study Frontiers of Science challenges long-standing historical consensus on the relationship between knowledge creation and empire in early America. . . . Strang’s numerous stories . . . reflect the exhaustive and downright impressive scope of his research. . . . [and succeed] in recovering important voices, many of them non-Anglos, in shaping and contesting knowledge from early contact through the early republic.”–H-AmIndian Reviews

“While the convergences of empire, science, and race might seem familiar to some, Strang’s ability to illustrate the longue duree, the precariousness, and the complexity of these interrelated processes over the course of three-and-a-half-centuries – while considering a host of Euro-American empires, peoples, and source bases – is simply astounding. . . . [A] monumental contribution.”–Journal of Early American History

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