This paper describes the system of production and circulation of knowledge linked to bureaucracy and the Atlantic trade in the context of the Hispanic Monarchy. In order to consider these topics, this article examines the role of secretaries and the instructions for the collection of samples from the natural world written before and after the process of Independence. In particular, it will discuss those related to the provision of the Royal Cabinet of Madrid (1776), which illustrate how the history of natural history practices articulates the history of the sovereign’s political curiosity (to know and control “everything”) and the interests of those individuals who appeal to this curiosity to combine the promise of new knowledge with the opportunity to promote their own projects. The history of these instructions also illuminates how the interests and expectations of those individuals are shaped by the practices in which they are immersed and how the instructions become independent of their “author” and continue to impact other institutions and subjectivities.


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pp. 23-38
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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