In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Science and Technology (in Literature of the Atlantic World)

  • Introduction
  • Reference Works and Anthologies
  • Journals
  • Comparative Studies
  • Luso-Hispanic Studies
  • Anglo-American Studies
  • Studies of Periodicals and Gazetas

Atlantic History Science and Technology (in Literature of the Atlantic World)
David T. Read
  • LAST MODIFIED: 21 June 2024
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199730414-0410


Like the concept of the Atlantic world itself, the topic of this bibliography lacks precise borders and will continue to develop as scholars fill in the various gaps in knowledge inevitably present in a relatively new field of inquiry. In the current instance the field registers paradoxically as both broad and narrow: during the roughly 350 years between the first European contact with the Americas and the end of the slave trade, the Atlantic zone of exchange is rich with scientific, technological, and literary activity, but combinations of “science” and/or “technology” with “literature” in the Atlantic context are relatively rare as well as distributed unevenly. Researchers working in this general area are likely to encounter problems of definition and classification, but a couple of points relating to the organization of the field should not cause much debate. First, whatever else the term may imply, “literature” in this instance is written and exists in material records, as texts. Practically, this means that “Atlantic” literature is limited to those regions of the Atlantic that produced such records. Second, most of what falls under the aegis of “science” in the Atlantic context can be classified as either natural history (i.e., the observation, description, and classification of the order of nature) or medicine; with some notable exceptions this continues to be the case well into the nineteenth century, distinct from the experimental program of post-Newtonian science. With these points in mind, one can begin to organize into plausible categories the available evidence of contact in the Atlantic world between science and/or technology and literature. One category includes texts that obviously belong to a traditional literary genre but that speak to or about scientific matters. Another involves texts with scientific aspects written without any intent on the part of the authors to produce literary works, but that over time have been assimilated into particular literary traditions. Some texts are literature-adjacent: their authors are understood to be “literary” in some fashion, though the texts themselves might not be. Such categories are necessarily fluid, but one aspect is true of all of them: they rely upon an idea of transatlantic communication, a trade in words, facts, ideas, and observations from center to periphery and vice versa. Whatever combinations of science and literature emerge in the Atlantic world, they recognize, and often appeal to, a right to converse with other parts of that world.

Reference Works and Anthologies

Though the following works are not directly concerned with an idea of the Atlantic world, they all provide helpful material for Atlantic-oriented research. Schatzberg, et al. 1987 is a comprehensive source of information on less recent scholarship. Hawley and Suzuki 2003–2004 gathers together a vast array of primary sources, reproduced as they appeared when originally published. Clarke and Rossini 2011 and Gossin 2002 offer brief contextual summaries that are helpful for quickly sketching our areas of potential research. Readers will also benefit from consulting the following separate Oxford Bibliographies articles in the Atlantic History module: “History of Science,” “Literature and Culture,” “Literature of the British Caribbean,” “Natural History,” “Networks of Science and Scientists,” “The Slave Trade and Natural Science,” and “Technology, Inventing, and Patenting.”

  • Clarke, Bruce, and Manuela Rossini, eds. The Routledge Companion to Literature and Science. London and New York: Routledge, 2011.

    Part III, “Periods and Cultures,” contains articles on successive historical periods, beginning with Greece and Rome.

  • Gossin, Pamela, ed. Encyclopedia of Literature and Science. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 2002.

    Short articles on a large variety of topics and figures, many touching on matters relevant to Atlantic studies.

  • Hawley, Judith, and Akihito Suzuki, eds. Literature and Science, 1660–1834. 8 vols. London: Pickering and Chatto, 2003–2004.

    Massive anthology of mostly British scientific writing in facsimile, accompanied by brief commentary and divided into subjects as follows: Vol. 1: Science as Polite Culture; Vol. 2: Sciences of Body and Mind; Vol. 3: Earthly Powers; Vol. 4: Flora; Vol. 5, Fauna; Vol. 6: Astronomy; Vol. 7, Natural Philosophy; Vol. 8: Chemistry.

  • Schatzberg, Walter, Ronald A. Waite, and Jonathan K. Johnson, eds. The Relations of Literature and Science: An Annotated Bibliography of Scholarship, 1880–1980. New York: Modern Language Association of America, 1987.

    Invaluable historical bibliography, covering research on subjects from antiquity to the twentieth century.

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