Wars and wonders: the inter-island information networks of Georg Everhard Rumphius.

Research paper by Genie G Yoo

Indexed on: 20 Dec '18Published on: 20 Dec '18Published in: British journal for the history of science


How did one man living on an island come to acquire information about the rest of the vast archipelago? This article traces the inter-island information networks of Georg Everhard Rumphius (1627-1702), an employee of the Dutch East India Company, who was able to explore the natural world of the wider archipelago without ever leaving the Moluccan island of Ambon. This article demonstrates the complexities of Rumphius's inter-island networks, as he collected information about plants and objects from islands near and far. Using his administrative, commercial and household networks, Rumphius was able to interact with local actors from across the social spectrum, whose own active collection, mediation and circulation of objects and information overlapped with imperial activities in the archipelago. This article examines Rumphius as both a collector and a mediator, who negotiated between multiple economies of exchange and translated information from different islands for his distant European readership. Such practices of localized translation demonstrate how knowledge produced on one island was the product of criss-crossing inter-island networks, as the information concerned underwent its own complicated processes of transmission and transformation within the archipelago before reaching its intended audience in Europe.