Anna Winterbottom’s Hybrid Knowledge in the Early East India Company World is unlikely to be a book many of my followers have on their bookshelves. It is not one you will find in many bookshops and it is fairly expensive but it is one of my favourites. From the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series, it is an extremely readable book which explores the movement of people, their customs, objects, languages, medicinal plants, food and maps & charts throughout the world of the East India Company between 1660 and 1720.
The references to Thomas Bowrey are what initially drew me to Hybrid Knowledge but it was the inclusion of his uncle, Henry Smith, that really grabbed my attention. I was doubtful about some of the assumptions made about the pair and, unfortunately, they are not all valid but this does not distract from the basic premise. For me, it is good for my assumptions and conclusions to be challenged as this book did and I am extremely grateful for Ms Winterbottom for doing this. It gave focus and impetus to my research. In particular, my interest in Smith grew from reading this book. He was a fascinating individual.
Personally, I am so pleased that I found this book. I find the subject matter particularly interesting and would have done so even without the Thomas and Smith connections. The sharing of knowledge across the world is something we take for granted today but it is nothing new. Without modern technology, the medium for the spread of information was different – trade and diplomacy – and slower but still happened. It says a great deal about the human character.