Repository logo

Georg Joseph Kamel (1661-1706): A Jesuit Pharmacist at the Frontiers of Colonial Empires



Change log



This dissertation confronts persistent questions about how knowledge travelled across geographic and socio-cultural spaces and about how diverse local knowledge traditions came to shape global knowledge in the age of colonialism. I explore these issues through the lens of the career of the Jesuit pharmacist Georg Joseph Kamel (1661–1706) and the communications of medical and natural knowledge between the early modern Philippines and Europe. Sent as a missionary to the Spanish outpost in Manila, Kamel found himself engaged in encounters between European and local traditions, and in worldwide networks of knowledge exchange that spanned the Spanish, English, Dutch and Portuguese colonial empires. My main concern is Kamel’s participation in the global commerce of medical and natural knowledge. Seeking to decentre previous narratives of the mobility of early modern knowledge and recover agencies previously regarded as peripheral, I use Kamel’s activities to demonstrate how agents from diverse cultures and with different goals built functional relationships which facilitated worldwide movements of knowledge. This dissertation traces movements of knowledge from the point of local production, through entanglements between European and non-European traditions, and thence to worldwide movements and receptions in Europe and beyond. In this way, it shows how a Philippine medicinal plant used by indigenous communities became a global commodity, and how local knowledge thus attained global mobility. Kamel’s activities highlight that input from local traditions, and from agents across the social spectrum were essential to the production and mobilisation of knowledge, which was negotiated in complex cross-cultural situations. By pluralising the sites, agents and traditions involved, I point towards new geographies of early modern knowledge.





Spary, Emma
Secord, James Andrew


Georg Joseph Kamel, Early Modern History, Early Modern History of Natural History, Early Modern History of Medicine, World History, Early Modern Jesuit Science, Philippine History, British Empire, Spanish Empire, Southeast Asian History, English East India Company, Dutch East India Company, James Petiver (c.1665-1718), John Ray (1627-1705), Willem ten Rhijne (1647-1700), Indigenous Knowledge, Colonial History of Science, Colonial History of Medicine, Cross-Cultural History of Science, Early Modern History of the Pacific



Awarding Institution

University of Cambridge
UK Arts and Humanities Research Council