Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith

Dr Sarah Easterby-Smith

BA(Hons) (York), MA, PhD (Warwick)

Contact Details

Telephone - +44 (0)1334 462906
Fax - +44 (0)1334 462914


Research Profile on Reasearch@StAndrews




Teaching and Research Interests

I joined St Andrews in 2012, having previously held a Dibner Fellowship in the History of Science at the Huntington Library, California, a Max Weber Fellowship at the European University Institute and an Early Career Fellowship at the Institute of Advanced Study, University of Warwick. I was awarded my PhD at Warwick in 2010. I teach and research eighteenth-century cultural and social history, focusing the global connections and transnational links made between France, Britain and the wider world. My particular research interest is on the relationship between science, society and culture in the eighteenth century, and on how information, knowledge and cultural influences moved (or failed to move) between nations and across social groups. This is reflected in my 3000-level honours modules on the French Revolution and on Franco-British relations in the eighteenth century, and in my 4000-level and MLitt teaching on global and transnational history, social history and the history of science. In summary, my research interests encompass the histories of consumption, collecting and gender in the eighteenth century as well as the history of science and global history. I would be happy to hear from students considering pursuing any of these themes for undergraduate or postgraduate study.

Research Projects

Current research

Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760-1815
My monograph, Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760-1815, will be published by Cambridge University Press in 2017. The book exposes and analyses the links between botany, the plant trade, and cultures of connoisseurship, in France, Britain and their empires during the politically turbulent period of 1760-1815. It shows in particular how plant traders acted as key cultural, social and intellectual intermediaries, selling specimens and sharing information with communities of connoisseurs, botanists, gardeners and other consumers. Cultivating Commerce is as much a social and cultural history as a history of science, and it revises existing historical accounts by demonstrating the extent to which the science of botany was affected by the wider commercial, scholarly, and cultural transitions experienced in Britain and France in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries.

Cultures of Natural Knowledge
In writing my book I have become increasingly interested in the relationship between social participation in science and the literary or visual forms through which scholarly information is communicated. Answering such questions requires an interdisciplinary approach, and I have collaborated with Dr Emily Senior (Department of English, Birkbeck), on a research project about these connections. We co-edited a journal special issue on 'The Cultural Production of Natural Knowledge' (Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies, 36.4, December 2013), and convened a conference on Aesthetic Enlightenmentsat the Huntington Library, California (10-11 January 2014).

Making Knowledge, Forging Empire? The French in India, c. 1750-1793

My next major research project examines the relationship between the French Empire and the emergence of the natural sciences in the eighteenth century. Focusing on the French in India and the Indian Ocean between c. 1750 and 1793, I examine the scholarly activity and knowledge networks of officials such as consuls and employees of the Compagnie des Indes, who worked within, but did not form, colonial structures. The project assesses the significance of communication and information management, and the impact of cultural and social norms on the reception of new knowledge. By reconstructing and analysing the networks formed by lesser officials working within the French empire, this study will revise existing presumptions about the relationship between the collection of knowledge and the construction of empires. Initial research for this project was funded by a Research Incentive Grant from the Carnegie Trust, [Carnegie Reference #70320]

Main Publications

  • ‘Reputation in a box. Objects, communication and trust in late eighteenth-century botanical networks’ , History of Science 53(2) (June 2015): 180-208.
  • Sarah Easterby-Smith and Emily Senior, 'The Cultural Production of Natural Knowledge: Contexts, Terms, Themes', Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 36(4) (2013) doi 10.1111/1754-0208.12076
  • 'Selling Beautiful Knowledge: Amateurship, Botany and the Market-Place in Late Eighteenth-Century France', Journal for Eighteenth Century Studies 36(4) (2013) doi: 10.1111/1754-0208.12081
  • ‘Cross-Channel Commerce: the Circulation of Plants, People and Botanical Culture between France and Britain c. 1760 – c. 1789’, in Lise Andries, Frédéric Ogée, John Dunkley and Darach Sanfey (eds.), Intellectual Journeys. The translation of ideas in Enlightenment England, France and Ireland, Studies on Voltaire and the Eighteenth Century 2013:12 (Oxford: Voltaire Foundation, 2013): 215-230.
  • ‘Thinking Through Things’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Science Part A 43(1) (March 2012), pp. 208-212.
  • ‘Credibility and Trust in Transatlantic Botanical Networks’, Working Paper – Max Weber Postdoctoral Programme. Red Number Series 2011/12.
  • ‘Propagating Commerce: Plant Breeding and Market Competition in London and Paris, ca. 1770 – ca. 1800’, in Jean-Paul Gaudillière, Daniel J. Kevles and Hans-Jorg Rheinberger (eds.),
  • Living Properties, Making Knowledge and Controlling Ownership in the History of Biology. Preprint 382 (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, 2009), pp. 11-20.



Cultivating Commerce: Cultures of Botany in Britain and France, 1760-1815
(Cambridge University Press)

Articles and book chapters

'On Diplomacy and Botanical Gifts: France, Mysore and Maur itius in 1788', in Yota Batsaki ,  Sarah Burke Cahalan and Anatole Tchikine (eds.), The Botany of Empire in the Long Eighteenth Century (Washington, D.C.: Dumbarton Oaks)
'John Hill, Exotic Botany and the Competitive World of Eighteenth-Century Horticulture', in Clare Brant and G. S. Rousseau (eds.), Fame and Fortune: Sir John Hill and London in the 1750s (Palgrave).

Internal Admin Duties

Director, Centre for French History and Culture

Member of the Editorial Board for St Andrews Studies in French History and Culture

External Admin Duties

Social History Society – Executive Committee member and co-convenor of the ‘Economies, Culture and Consumption’ strand (2012-15).

Teaching Duties

I teach the honours modules:

MO3346: Politics, Culture and Society in the French Revolution, 1789-1815
MO3222: French Fancy and Cool Britannia? Franco-British cultural relations from the Seven Years’ War to the French Revolution
MO4968: Curiosity, Empire and Science in Eighteenth-century France

I also co-teach on the following courses:

Research Students

Dawn Hollis, ‘ Re-Thinking Mountains : Ascents, Aesthetics and Environment in Early Modern Europe’. Co-supervised with Dr Bernhard Struck.

Ramsay MacKenzie-Dodds, ‘Nature and Culture Hand in Hand?’. Co-supervised with Dr Alistair Rider (Art History).

Paul Moorhouse, ‘Joseph Townsend and an End to Poverty’. Co-supervised with Professor Richard Whatmore.

Elena Romero-Passerin, ‘A Republic of Plants: European Botanical Gardens in the Second Half of the Eighteenth Century’. Co-supervised with Dr Aileen Fyfe.

Matthew Ylitalo, ‘Hunting Whales and Making Knowledge: Dundee’s Globalisation through Trans-Maritime Whaling, 1750-1914’. Co-supervised with Dr Bernhard Struck.