Emma Spary

Reader in the History of Modern European Knowledge
Fellow of Corpus Christi College
Emma Spary
After taking my PhD in 1993 as a Research Fellow at Girton College, Cambridge, I then worked at the University of Warwick, the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte, Berlin, and the Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL before returning to Cambridge to take up a position in the Faculty of History in 2010.
My research interests centre upon European history in the ‘long eighteenth century’, especially France. Since my first book, Utopia's Garden (Chicago, 2000), which concerned the main natural history institution in Paris, founded during the First French Republic, I have published two other monographs on the history of food and diet in eighteenth-century France, Eating the Enlightenment (Chicago, 2012), on Enlightenment café culture, and Feeding France (Cambridge, 2014), on early industrial foods, which describes the first and only mashed potato factory in Republican France! I am currently working on a book on drug-taking during the reign of Louis XIV.
I teach on both European history and the history of science and medicine in the transition from early to late modernity. Currently I am teaching on Part I, Papers 1 (Themes and Sources option iv, 'Remaking the Modern Body'), 16 and 17, and on Part II, Specified Subjects 11 and 14.
I am a member of the British Society for the History of Science and the European Society for the History of Science.
I have supervised on a range of areas, including the history of food and chemistry from the early modern period till the end of the nineteenth century, the sciences in the French Revolution, cultural history in long eighteenth-century France and the global history of pharmacy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. I am not currently taking on any more graduate students.


Tags & Themes


Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, CB2 1RH


Key publications


Utopia's Garden: French Natural History from Old Regime to Revolution. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2000.

Le Jardin de l’Utopie: l’histoire naturelle en France entre Ancien Régime et Révolution. Paris: Editions du Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, 2005. A translation of the above.

Eating the Enlightenment: Food and the Sciences in Paris. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2012.

Feeding France: New Sciences of Food, 1760-1815. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

Articles and book chapters:

“The ‘Nature’ of Enlightenment”, in The Sciences in Enlightened Europe, ed. W. Clark, S. Schaffer and J. Golinski. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1999, pp. 272-304.

“Codes of Passion: Natural History Specimens as a Polite Language in Late Eighteenth-Century France”, in Wissenschaft als kulturelle Praxis, 1750-1900, ed. P. H. Reill and J. Schlumbohm, Göttingen: Vanderhoek & Ruprecht, 1999, pp. 105-135.

“Forging Nature at the Republican Muséum”, in The Faces of Nature in Enlightenment Europe, ed. L. Daston and G. Pomata. Berlin: Berliner Wissenschafts-Verlag, 2003, pp. 163-180.

“Scientific Symmetries”, History of Science 62 (2004): 1-46.

“‘Peaches which the Patriarchs Lacked’: Natural History, Natural Resources, and the Natural Economy in Eighteenth-Century France”, in History of Political Economy, supplement to vol. 35, ed. N. De Marchi and M. Schabas. Durham: Duke University Press, 2004, pp. 14-41.

“Of Nutmegs and Botanists: The Colonial Cultivation of Botanical Identity”, in Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World, ed. L. Schiebinger and C. Swan. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2005, pp. 187-203.

“Pierre Pomet’s Parisian Cabinet: Revisiting the Visible and the Invisible in Early Modern Collections”, in From Private to Public: Natural Collections and Museums, ed. M. Beretta. Sagamore Beach, MA: Science History Publications, 2005, pp. 59-80.

“Kennerschaft versus chemische Expertise. Was es im Paris des 18. Jahrhunderts über Nahrungsmittel zu wissen gab”, in Wissenschaftsgeschichte und Geschichte des Wissens im Dialog, ed. K. von Greyerz et al. Göttingen: V&R unipress, 2013, pp. 35-60.

“The Naturalist Collecting Community in Paris, 1760—1789: A Preliminary Survey”, Acta Historica Leopoldina, 70 (2018): 297-324.

“Climate Change and Creolisation in French Natural History, 1750-1795“, in Johann Friedrich Blumenbach: Race and Natural History, 1750-1850, ed. N. Rupke and G. Lauer. London: Routledge, 2018, pp. 53-79.

“On the Ironic Specimen of the Unicorn Horn in Enlightened Cabinets”, Journal of Social History, special issue “Animal Bodies”, ed. A. Ross, 2019, pp. 1-28.
Edited collections:
Cultures of Natural History, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996 (co-edited with N. Jardine and J. A. Secord).

Sammeln als Wissen, Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2001 (co-edited with A. te Heesen).

Materials and Expertise in Early Modern Europe: Between Market and Laboratory, Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010 (co-edited with U. Klein).

 “Assimilating Knowledge: Food and Nutrition in Early Modern Physiologies”, special issue of Studies in History and Philosophy of Science part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43.2 (2012) (co-edited with B. Orland).

“Centre and Periphery in the Eighteenth-Century Habsburg ‘Medical Empire’”, forum in Studies in History and Philosophy of Science part C: Studies in History and Philosophy of Biological and Biomedical Sciences, 43.3 (2012) (editor).

Worlds of Natural History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018 (co-edited with N. Jardine, J. A. Secord and H. A. Curry).

“Food for Thought”, Osiris, 2020 (co-edited with A. Zilberstein).