Cacao and colonialism: examining the intersection between science and commerce in the life and work of Sir Hans Sloane by Sarah Gray Isenberg
Sir Hans Sloane, who would become the founder of the British Museum, sourced his early knowledge of natural history from Jamaica, acquired during his visit there in 1687-9. Sloane documented the various species of tropical flora (particularly cacao harvested by Jamaican slaves and used by natives) with empirical acuity for his private London herbarium and for his two-volume Natural History of Jamaica (1707). Sloane published botanical sketches of cacao that influenced taxonomist Carl Linnaeus. This study examines the intersection of seventeenth- and eighteenth-century scientific and commercial interests through two material artefacts: an engraving of cacao from Sloane’s second Jamaica volume (1725), and three glazed earthenware cups that Sloane used for drinking chocolate.