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A Colony by Design: Nature, Knowledge, and the Transformation of Landscape in the Delaware Valley, 1680–1780

Shuichi Wanibuchi, Harvard University, Junior Fellow 2015–2016

My dissertation project explores the ecological consequences of the British colonization of the Delaware Valley in the late seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. Focusing on a distinctive set of ideas and technologies—urban and regional planning, agricultural improvement, a new art of surveying and mapmaking, natural history, and political economy—the project argues that Britain’s imperial design and technology made a huge impact on the landscape and environment of the Delaware Valley throughout the colonial period. My junior fellowship allowed me to make great progress on research, writing, and finishing chapters of my dissertation. At the library and the Rare Books Collection, I could scrutinize materials pertaining to horticulture, agriculture, and natural history, which were produced in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century England and North America and were used by colonists. In particular, my reading of horticultural treatises in the Rare Books Reading Room led me to conclude that the works of the Hartlib circle heavily influenced Quaker colonists in early Pennsylvania in terms of the introduction of crops and farming methods into the soil of the region. And the original copy of Mark Catesby’s Natural History of Carolina, Florida, and the Bahama Islands amazed me and gave me a lot of new information. Lastly, the academic community of Dumbarton Oaks gave me a lot of pleasure, as I could converse with scholars from multiple disciplines as well as contemporary practitioners.