The English Naturalist Tradition

I have been pondering the subtext of Elisabeth Fairman’s exhibition as to whether it was mainly women who documented their experience of the natural world.   I don’t think it was mainly women who joined all those field clubs, who went out into the countryside with their microscopes and butterfly nets and hammers.   It was the earnest middle classes, especially the clergy, who were inspired by the writings of Erasmus Darwin and thought that it was a necessary accomplishment to know and understand and document the natural world (it was God’s world).   But not any more.   I was once given a butterfly net.   But there were no butterflies left to catch.

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