Program

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships , Mellon/ACLS Recent Doctoral Recipients Fellowships

Project

“The Balance Sheet of Nature”: Calculating the New York Farm, 1835-1860

Project

“The Balance Sheet of Nature:” Calculating the New York Farm, 1825-1860.

Department

History and Sociology of Science

Location

For residence at the Philadelphia Area Center for History of Science

“The Balance Sheet of Nature”: Calculating the New York Farm, 1835-1860

To understand how nineteenth-century Americans saw the natural world, we must examine their knowledge of their farms. During the nineteenth century, the developing market altered relations between Americans and the organisms they managed. With its mutable, highly productive agriculture, New York was at the focus of these changes. This project analyzes the work of New York's agricultural improvers, asking how market values and quantitative practices changed how farmers understood and worked with farm landscapes. How did cash promote chemical forms of nutritional value? How did industrial metaphors shape how farmers saw animal growth? How did concepts of natural and monetary economy interact? With such questions, this project illuminates the spread of economic ways of knowing nature.

“The Balance Sheet of Nature:” Calculating the New York Farm, 1825-1860.

This project expands upon previous work on how the rise of commercial agriculture reshaped agricultural knowledge within the vibrant agricultural improvement societies of Antebellum upstate New York. A study of the “mulberry craze” of the late 1830s, serves as an example of the “manias” that characterized improvement, and facilitates exploration of the the ambivalent role of “speculation” in agricultural knowledge-making. Another piece investigates agricultural time discipline, focusing not on clocks, but on improvers’ use of thermometers and weather-records to regulate their relationship with seasonal time. Finally, the inclusion of new data on county societies membership extends our understanding of participation beyond anecdote.