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This paper will use a comparative study of public botanic gardens in Scotland and Tuscany in the second half of the eighteenth century to examine how and why public authorities shaped these gardens into more professional institutions dedicated to science. The eighteenth century saw the multiplication of botanic gardens throughout Europe. Many of these new gardens were privately owned and managed, but it also became more common to see botanic gardens that were funded and managed more or less directly by authorities such as the Crown (be it Royal in Scotland, or Grand-ducal in Tuscany), or the city councils. This paper will show that public authorities became more interested in the gardens in the late eighteenth century, which resulted not only in more funding, but also more controls, and a new definition of their purpose. These changes helped fashion botanic gardens into scientific institutions serving the “public good”.

Elena Romero-Passerin finished her PhD on the institutionalisation of botanic gardens in the eighteenth century in 2021 in the University of St Andrews. She is currently a lecturer in eighteenth century European History in the same university.

All welcome- this seminar is free to attend but booking is required.