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Henry Smeathman, the FlycatcherNatural History, Slavery, and Empire in the Late Eighteenth Century$
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Deirdre Coleman

Print publication date: 2018

Print ISBN-13: 9781786940537

Published to Liverpool Scholarship Online: May 2019

DOI: 10.3828/liverpool/9781786940537.001.0001

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(p.112) Chapter Four Housekeeping
Henry Smeathman, the Flycatcher

Deirdre Coleman

Liverpool University Press

Linnaeus considered prudent domestic management an essential part of natural history business. This chapter documents Smeathman’s survival tips for the tropics, including ‘going native’ and adhering to a native diet. But despite this, and his strategy of marrying in several times to the local trading dynasties, he failed to thrive domestically. Frustrated at being obliged to engage with local labour on African terms, and complaining constantly of the obstacles impeding his fieldwork, his achievements were nevertheless deeply indebted to local people. From his letters we see how his collecting activities were regarded, especially by the women in his household who mocked him and refused to obey his orders. At home, Drury convinces the Duchess of Portland to subscribe £100 to Smeathman’s expedition.

Keywords:   Surviving the tropics, African labour, African medicine, African diet, African marriage, Duchess of Portland

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