Henry Seebohm and the study of birds between Britain and Japan in the nineteenth century (2022-2023)

Today the name Henry Seebohm is almost completely unheard of, however, in the nineteenth century, Seebohm was a pioneering British figure in the study of birds. Henry Seebohm (1832-1895) was an English steel manufacturer and ornithologist. He travelled across the globe to places such as Greece, Turkey, Siberia and South Africa and published several books on global ornithology. Seebohm was the first to successfully introduce the trinomial classification of birds (already adopted in Germany and America) into Britain in the late nineteenth century.

In 1890 Seebohm published The Birds of the Japanese Empire. This book became the most up-to-date British description of Japanese birds. However, Seebohm's knowledge of Japanese ornithology and wider culture was gathered not through his own observations (as he did not travel to Japan), but rather through other European travellers to Japan, as well as the Japanese themselves. 


With this in mind, I want to use Seebohm and his work on birds as a case study to better understand the increasing cultural and scientific relations between Britain and Japan during the nineteenth century as Western science was becoming more global and Japan was opening up to the rest of the world.

 

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