Kate Luce MulryMay 25, 2022
An Empire Transformed
Remolding Bodies and Landscapes in the Restoration Atlantic
New York University Press 2021
When Charles II ascended the English throne in 1660 after two decades of civil war, he was confronted with domestic disarray and a sprawling empire in chaos. His government sought to assert control and affirm the King’s sovereignty by touting his stewardship of both England’s land and the improvement of his subjects’ health. In An Empire Transformed: Remolding Bodies and Landscapes in the Restoration Atlantic (NYU Press, 2021), Dr. Kate Mulry examines ambitious projects of environmental engineering, including fen and marshland drainage, forest rehabilitation, urban reconstruction, and garden transplantation schemes, showing how agents of the English Restoration government aimed to transform both places and people in service of establishing order. Merchants, colonial officials, and members of the Royal Society encouraged royal intervention in places deemed unhealthy, unproductive, or poorly managed. Their multiple schemes reflected an enduring belief in the complex relationships between the health of individual bodies, personal and communal character, and the landscapes they inhabited.
In this deeply researched work, Kate Mulry highlights a period of innovation during which officials reassessed the purpose of colonies, weighed their benefits and drawbacks, and engineered and instituted a range of activities in relation to subjects’ bodies and material environments. This book investigates how Restoration officials endeavoured to recover control and counteract any lingering questions about the king’s rightful authority after this long exile by reforming and cultivating environments on both sides of the Atlantic.
An Empire Transformed is an interdisciplinary work addressing a series of interlocking issues concerning ideas about the environment, governance, and public health in the early modern English Atlantic empire.
This interview was conducted by Dr. Miranda Melcher whose doctoral work focused on post-conflict military integration, understanding treaty negotiation and implementation in civil war contexts, with qualitative analysis of the Angolan and Mozambican civil wars.