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Duncan Taylor

<p>Duncan Taylor</p>

Duncan Taylor


BSc (hons) Geography, University of Glasgow 2009;
MRes Human Geography, University of Glasgow 2010




School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology (GAP)
Queen’s University Belfast
Belfast, BT7 1NN
Northern Ireland, UK

Current Research:

Society, Space and Culture

Circulating Tropical Nature: an historical geography of the botanical gardens of Jamaica, 1774-1907

This thesis examines the historical geography of the botanical gardens of Jamaica between 1774 and 1907. My original contribution to knowledge is two fold. On the one hand, it is empirical – a history of these sites has not been written. On the other hand, I suggest that examining sites of colonial endeavour away from the metropole shows a more detailed, complex and messy story that is indicative of the contingent and fallible relationships that strained to hold empire together.

I illustrate how the tropics were articulated on the island and elsewhere in the British Empire. To do this archival material has been viewed with an eye to hermeneutic analysis. In particular the thesis refuses both analytically and methodologically a focus on Kew Gardens, London, Britain or Europe as a ‘centre’ to Jamaica’s ‘periphery’. I shine an optic onto the lives of many who passed through and interacted with these botanical sites and seek to interpret the consequent representations of the politico-meteorological ‘tropical’ island. Coming from a tradition of work that emphasises the importance of place, this study considers eight locations where public botanical gardens were established on Jamaica. I reflect on the context and discourse that formed, shaped, empowered and disenfranchised these spaces and those who interacted with them.

The empirical work can broadly be split into three sections. The first examines the foundation debates and design principles of the botanical gardens. Here I consider the role of places where various ideas could be propagated initially with regards to the planter society and latterly with regards to crown colony governance. Secondly, I examine the gardens in action, that is, the networks and exchanges that circulated people and plants globally and locally. I suggest these facets of colonial life were dominated by a fear of losing authority over the enslaved and later black petty agriculturalists. Expertise presumed by the planter class gradually shifted to public office, as the botanical gardens on Jamaica gained repute and clout. Thirdly, and lastly, I scrutinize how some scientific projects were locally mobilised and articulated. This analysis shows the importance of rhetoric to the island’s situation – and the need to consider the long history of the Botanical Department – and point to effects on a wider geopolitical scale. Most notably, in the early twentieth-century the work in these spaces aligned the logic of free trade, education and locally pursued European civic science to the changing demands of the British Empire, which I suggest was a precursor to ‘development’ discourse. These ideas came out of and reinforced increasingly warm relations between Britain and the United States."

Dr Nuala Johnson and Prof David Livingstone

Additional Information:

• Masterclass 2014: One-day roundtable with expert in subject field (Professor John McNeill), invitation only. Royal Irish Academy
• Chaired meeting with visiting scholar Professor Harriet Ritvo at QUB
• Taught/carried out administrative duties on QUB courses: GGY2028; GGY2038; GGY2032.
• QUB, Sussex Field Trip: Helped lead eight-day residential field trip (30 students)
• Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers), Geographical Club Award
• Historical Geography Research Group, small grant: Jamaican research
• Historical Geography Research Group: International Conference of Historical Geography conference fees
• Society for Caribbean Studies: Conference fees
• Sir Thomas Dixon Travel Award, QUB
• Recipient of 75th Anniversary Fieldwork Prize from the School of Geography, Archaeology and Palaeoecology
• Full DEL funding for current doctoral research
• Recipient of fees only funding 2008-9 for MRes in Human Geography
• Recipient of BUTEX scholarship for exchange year (3rd year BSc) to the University of Toronto 2007-8