The authors put forward to the attention of readers an unusual and important historical document: the manuscript text of a speech on “The Natural History of the Whale” delivered by the whaling magnate Charles W. Morgan, who addressed the New Bedford Lyceum in 1830. Morgan's text affords unique insights into the popular understanding of these mammoth, valuable, and mysterious organisms, while also shedding light on the broader issue of natural history in the Early Republic. An introduction frames whales as “problems of knowledge” in the early nineteenth century, and sketches the intellectual, economic, and cultural context of Morgan's lecture; shorter section introductions and footnotes draw attention to important themes in the excerpts from the manuscript. (The authors wish to acknowledge with thanks the Library of the New Bedford Whaling Museum, which owns the original document).


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pp. 433-466
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