The 18th Century Search for the Blue Nile

The Enlightenment

Francis Bacon

Sir Francis Bacon, considered the founder of empirical Enlightenment thought

"Order is Heaven's first law" - Alexander Pope

The Age of Enlightenment

James Bruce, along with various other explorers, was enticed by the idea of acquiring knowledge and furthering humankind's understanding of the world around it. This was the common attitude during the Enlightenment. Beginning in the mid-seventeeth century, the decline of the church's influence coupled with dynamic revolutions in science, math, philosophy, and politics set the stage for a sweeping desire to explore the world. Monarchs and other heads of state funded countless journeys in a European race to claim the most of "India", or what Europe believed the rest of the world to be. Europeans revitalized an interest in the classics of Greece and Rome, admiring their academic and political pursuits and seeking to emulate them. In such a competitive learning atmosphere, large amounts of artifacts were brought back to Europe and examined in an attempt to better understand the history of the human species.

The antiquarianism of 18th century explorers was vital to the study of ancient societies and even to our understanding of world history today. Thankfully, these explorers would bring back as many specimens as they could and draw, as accurately as possible, most of the rest. Very few things went without a description in a travel narrative. The excitement of the European population was satisfied when it could actually gaze upon these exotic wonders in Cabinets of Curiosity.

Natural and Artificial Classification

Classification of species falls into one of two categories: natural and artificial. Natural classification groups things together based off of similarities in sensual qualities. it is not very particular. Artificial classification groups different species together by one or two similar qualities and can group two species that wouldn't be grouped together naturally. Binomial nomenclature, the taxonomic method created by Carl Linnaeus that we are familiar with today, utilizes artificial classification.

Cited Works

Bristow, William. "The Enlightenment." Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2011. Accessed May 22, 2015.