European Ethnobotany in Historical Context

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Spring 2019 quarter

Taught by

botany, ecology, environmental history
European history

This program examines early modern Western European botany in historical and cultural context, with some limited hands-on learning in herbology. We focus on key moments in the rise of Western botany particularly during the 16th through 18th centuries, which were also eras of intense religious, social, and political change, as well as centuries of worldwide colonial and imperial expansion. As we study the rise of botany as a profession, we couch this learning in a wider examination of Europeans' shifting understanding of their relationship with the natural and supernatural world during the Reformation, the scientific revolution, The Enlightenment, and the Age of Imperialism; and we explore the links between these intellectual and cultural changes and upheavals such as the advent of the Dutch Republic and the French Revolution. Our studies include analysis of changing artistic trends with the growing focus on nature and humanity in landscape painting, botanical illustration, and secular themes. The program also emphasizes the role of gender in botany, science, and society more generally from the 16th century witch-hunts to 18th century reassessments of women's social and political positions. Lectures and readings cover social and political history, art history, and colonial botany, as well as garden and medical history.

In hands-on practica students will learn to prepare salves, tinctures, decoctions, and infusions. Weekly workshops will help students improve their ability to write thesis-driven essays defended with evidence from assigned texts. Credit equivalencies for the program include expository writing, European history, European ethnobotany, and gender and women's studies.

Program Details

Fields of Study

art history botany gender and women's studies history writing

Preparatory For

cultural studies, European history, gender studies, and writing.


Spring Open

Location and Schedule

Campus Location


Time Offered


Online Learning

Enhanced Online Learning


$30 for supplies for several hands-on herbology workshops.