2 Dec 2019 3:00pm - 5:00pm CRASSH Meeting Room, Alison Richard Building, Cambridge, CB3 9DT


This session has been cancelled due to strike action.

The Domestication Practices across History reading group was set up in order to investigate the deep history and global spread of what might be termed ‘domestication practices’: the creation or breeding of new varieties of plants and animals. The goal of this group is to consider how different domestication practices have come about and spread – or failed to spread – across the globe. We will begin with the domestication of crop plants in the Neolithic, before moving chronologically all the way to twentieth-century histories of genetic modification. Throughout our long journey through history we will explore several different bio-techniques or technologies, from acclimatisation to hybridisation, Mendelian theory to mutation breeding.

What role have theories of heredity played in the development and uptake of these practices? How did advocates of these practices succeed or fail in convincing others to adopt them? By considering these and other questions, we shall engage with the use of domestication practices as objects of historical study, including their promise and limitations. Readings will consist of book chapters and articles on the history of plant and animal domestication, breeding, agriculture and biotechnology.

This reading group is convened by Matt Holmes. If you have any queries about the events or reading, please don’t hesitate to email.


Michaelmas Term – 2 December 2019:


Paolo Savoia, ‘Nature or Artifice? Grafting in Early Modern Surgery and Agronomy’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 72, 1 (2016): pp. 67-86.

Margaret E Derry, ‘Chapter One: Artificial Selection Theory and Livestock Breeding, 1750-1900’, in Masterminding Nature: The Breeding of Animals, 1750-2010 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015): pp. 13-39.


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gloknos is initially funded for 5 years by the European Research Council through a Consolidator Grant awarded to Dr Inanna Hamati-Ataya for her project ARTEFACT (2017-2022). ARTEFACT is funded by the European Research Council under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Framework Programme for Research and Innovation (ERC grant agreement no. 724451). For information about gloknos or ARTEFACT please contact the administrator in the first instance.


4 November 2019

Domestication and the Origins of Agriculture

James C Scott, ‘Chapter Two: Landscaping the World: The Domus Complex’ in Against the Grain: A Deep History of the Earliest States (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2017): pp. 68-92.

Ian Hodder, Gary O Rollefson, Ofer Bar-Yosef and Trevor Watkins, Review of Jacques Cauvin, The Birth of the Gods and the Origins of Agriculture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000), in Cambridge Archaeological Journal 11, 1 (2001): pp. 105-121.

18 November 2019

Classical Heredity in the Roman and Medieval Worlds

Jared Secord, ‘Overcoming Environmental Determinism: Introduced Species, Hybrid Plants and Animals, and Transformed Lands in the Hellenistic and Roman Worlds’, in The Routledge Handbook of Identity and the Environment in the Classical and Medieval Worlds, ed. Rebecca Futo Kennedy and Molly Jones-Lewis (Abingdon: Routledge, 2016): pp. 210-229.

Steven A Epstein, ‘Chapter Two: The Invention of Mules’ in The Medieval Discovery of Nature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2012): pp. 40-77.

2 December 2019


16 December 2019

Commanding Nature in Early Modern Europe

Paolo Savoia, ‘Nature of Artifice? Grafting in Early Modern Surgery and Agronomy’, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences 72, 1 (2016): pp. 67-86.

Margaret E Derry, ‘Chapter One: Artificial Selection Theory and Livestock Breeding, 1750-1900’, in Masterminding Nature: The Breeding of Animals, 1750-2010 (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015): pp. 13-39.

20 January 2020

Empires of Acclimatisation

Rebecca J H Woods, ‘Chapter Two: Much Ado About Mutton’ in The Herds Shot Round the World: Native Breeds and the British Empire, 1800-1900 (Chapel Hill, NC: The University of North Carolina Press, 2017).

Harriet Ritvo, ‘Going Forth and Multiplying: Animal Acclimatization and Invasion’, Environmental History 17, 2 (2012): pp. 404-414.

3 February 2020

The Mendelian Gene Goes Global

Garland E Allen, ‘Origins of the Classical Gene Concept, 1900–1950: Genetics, Mechanistic, Philosophy, and the Capitalization of Agriculture’, Perspectives in Biology and Medicine 57, 1 (2014): pp. 8-39.

Christophe Bonneuil, ‘”Seeing Nature as a ‘Universal Store of Genes”: How Biological Diversity became “Genetic Resources”, 1890–1940’, Studies in History and Philosophy of Biology and Biomedical Sciences 75 (2019): pp. 1-14.

17 February 2020

Politics of Hybridisation

Noel Kingsbury, ‘Chapter Ten: Hybrid! Corn and the Brave New World of f1 Hybridization’, in Hybrid: The History & Science of Plant Breeding (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005).

Deborah Fitzgerald, ‘Farmers Deskilled: Hybrid Corn and Farmers’ Work’, Technology and Culture 34, 2 (1993): pp. 324-343.

2 March 2020

Alternate Twentieth-Century Biotechnologies

Helen Anne Curry, ‘Chapter Fifteen: The Peaceful Atom in Global Agriculture’ in Evolution Made to Order: Plant Breeding and Technological Innovation in Twentieth Century America (Chicago and London: University of Chicago Press, 2016).

Matthew Holmes, ‘Somatic Hybridization: The Rise and fall of a Mid-Twentieth Century Biotechnology’, Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 48, 1 (2018): pp. 1-23.

16 March 2020

Engaging Modern Genetic Practices

Sheila Jasanoff, ‘Biotechnology and Empire: The Global Power of Seeds and Science’, Osiris 21, 1 (2006): pp. 273-292.

Jane Maienschein, ‘On Cloning: Advocating History of Biology in the Public Interest’, Journal of the History of Biology 34, 3 (2001): pp. 423-432.

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