“Botany, Race, and Gender in Enlightenment Saint-Domingue and Guyane”

OI Colloquium with Meghan Roberts and Laurie Wood

In 1767, the free woman of color Charlotte Dugée absconded from the Patris botanical expedition, for which she was a French state-appointed specimen illustrator, into the forests of Guyane, never to be heard from again. Unlike typical Enlightenment scientific practitioners – overwhelmingly white, male, Europeans – Dugée had been born in the Caribbean colony of Saint-Domingue, a woman of mixed race and possibly recent manumission. But she had also attained the rare status of brevet, an official designation of expertise, usually granted to scientific practitioners with metropolitan reputations and royal patronage. This article probes this paradox to center women of mixed race in the story of colonial and Enlightenment science.

Meghan K. Roberts is associate professor of history at Bowdoin College. A specialist in Enlightenment history who focuses on science, medicine, and gender, Roberts is the author of Sentimental Savants: Philosophical Families in Enlightenment France (Chicago, 2016) and is currently working on a book project titled “Charlatan Wars: Enlightenment Struggles for Medical Authority.”

Laurie Wood is associate professor of history at Florida State University. A historian of the early modern world, her research focuses on Francophone history in comparative and global perspectives with attention to legality, risk, and place. Her first book, Archipelago of Justice: Law in France’s Early Modern Empire, came out with Yale in 2020 and her current book project is Flickering Fortunes: Women, Catastrophe & Complicity in the French Tropics.


The OI’s Colloquium Series is an ongoing seminar for scholars to present their work in progress for graduate students and colleagues.  Advanced registration is required. All participants read the pre-circulated  paper and prepare to engage in generous and generative feedback.

When we meet in person we are limited by the size of the OI’s conference room; online we limit registration to 40 (a typical size for the colloquium). No recordings are made of the discussions and no tweeting or posting on other social media platforms during the event is permitted in order to encourage this intellectual community of trusted exchange.


Contact Beverly Smith for your copy.

Religions, Nation States, and Politics in Vast Early America

Join us for an OI Author Conversation with Kate Carté and Julia Gaffield.

How can we best understand the connections between religion, war, and political upheaval in the Age of Revolution?  Explorations into the intersection of politics and religion are often framed in terms of the impact of political upheaval on religious faith and practice.  Seen this way, religion figures as a barometer of political and social change. Yet specific denominations were fundamental components of systems that structured relationships within and between nations and empires.  Woven into structures of politics and diplomacy at the highest levels, they  could serve as expressions of national aspiration and as agents of political change. To understand religion’s role in Age of Revolution, we need to explore the formal connections between religious institutions on the one hand and political and diplomatic processes on the other.

Please join Kate Carté and Julia Gaffield for a discussion about the complex role of religion in the Age of Revolution.  Kate Carté is the author of Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History (2021), which situates British Protestantism as part of a complex, transatlantic system that bound religion to imperial politics until it was ruptured by the war for American independence. Julia Gaffield, the author of Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World (2015), is currently writing a book about Haiti’s efforts to leverage its diplomatic relationship with the Catholic Church in order to secure a place among the nineteenth century’s “family of nations.”


Kate Carté (PhD, University of Wisconsin) is an associate professor of History at Southern Methodist University.  She is the author of Religion and Profit: Moravians in Early America (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2009), and she has published articles in venues including Church History, the William and Mary Quarterly, Common-place, and Early American Studies. She has received fellowships from the ACLS, the McNeil Center for Early American Studies, the American Philosophical Society, and the Program in Early American Economy and Society at the Library Company of Philadelphia.  Her new book, Religion and the American Revolution: An Imperial History (UNC Press for the OI, 2021), chronicles how that pivotal conflict transformed both protestant institutions and the relationship between church and state.

Julia Gaffield is an associate professor of History at Georgia State University. She received her PhD in History from Duke University and her research has been supported by grants and fellowships from the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada. Her first book, Haitian Connections in the Atlantic World: Recognition after Revolution, was published by the University of North Carolina Press in 2015 and won the 2016 Mary Alice and Frederick Boucher Book Prize from the French Colonial Historical Society. Gaffield published an article in the American Historical Review in 2020 called “The Racialization of International Law after the Haitian Revolution: The Holy See and National Sovereignty.” She is currently writing a biography of Jean-Jacques Dessalines and a history of the Catholic Church in Haiti in the 19th century.