See also this reading list on Kew, economic botany and empire (PDF)

  1. Brockway, L.H. 1979. Science and colonial expansion: the role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. New York: Academic Press. 215 pp.
  2. Brockway, L.H. 1979. Science and colonial expansion: the role of the British Royal Botanic Gardens. American Ethnologist 6(3): 449-465.
  3. Dean, W. 1987. Brazil and the struggle for rubber - a study in environmental history. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 234 pp.
  4. Desmond, R. 2007. The history of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Second Edition. London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 480 pp. Details
  5. Drayton, R.H. 1993. Imperial science and a scientific empire: Kew Gardens and the uses of nature, 1772-1903. PhD Dissertation, Yale University.
  6. Drayton, R.H. 2000. Nature’s government: science, imperial Britain and the ‘improvement’ of the world. New Haven; London: Yale University Press. 345 pp.
  7. Field, D.V. 1993. In the wake of the Endeavour: Banks’s botanical legacy.Endeavour NS 17(3): 141-146. Download PDF
  8. Hepper, F.N. (ed.) 1982. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew: gardens for science and pleasure. London: HMSO.
  9. Kumar, D. 1991. Science and empire: essays in Indian context (1700-1947).Delhi: Anamika Prakashan. 205 pp.
  10. Kumar, D. 1995. Science and the Raj: 1857-1905. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 273 pp.
  11. McCracken, D.P. 1997. Gardens of Empire: botanical institutions of the Victorian British Empire. Leicester: Leicester University Press. 242 pp.
  12. Milne, R. and L. Hastings. 1998. Home-spun solutions. Correspondence in Kew’s archives reveals how, during World war II, botanists experimented with using nettles… Kew (Spring) 10-11. Download PDF
  13. Moore, J. 1997. Green gold: the riches of Baron Ferdinand von Mueller. Historical Records of Australian Science 11(3): 371-388.
  14. Musgrave, T. and Musgrave, W. 2000. An empire of plants: people and plants that changed the world. London: Cassell. 191 pp.
  15. Sampson, H.C. 1935. The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew and Empire Agriculture.Journal of the Royal Society of Arts: 404-419. Download PDF
  16. Simmonds, N.W. 1991. The earlier British contribution to tropical agriculture research. Tropical Agricultural Association Newsletter, 11/2 2-7.
  17. Walvin, J. 1997. Fruits of Empire: exotic produce and British taste 1660-1800.Basingstoke: Macmillan. 219 pp.

The Economic Botany Collections (general)

  1. Alexander, E.P. 1983. Museum masters: their museums and their influence.Nashville, Tennesee, American Association for State and Local History. 428 pp.
  2. Alexander, E.P. 1983. William Jackson Hooker and the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. Chapter 5 in Museum masters: their museums and their influence.Nashville, Tennesee, American Association for State and Local History. 428 pp.
  3. Anon. 1982. Kew winners. (The 3 prize winning and 4 commended designs for the new museum). Architects’ Journal 26(175): 12-17.
  4. Field, D. 1998. Field’s finds [General overview of choice pieces]. Kew (Summer): 20-23. Download PDF Large file (17 MB)
  5. Griggs, P., Prendergast, H.D.V. and Rumball, N. 2000. Plants+People. An exhibition of items from the Economic Botany Collections. London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 64 pp. Details
  6. Hastings, R.B. 1989. The Sir Joseph Banks Centre and the economic botany collections at Kew. Endeavour NS 13(4): 174-178. Download PDF
  7. Hooker, W.J. 1858. Museum of Economic Botany. A popular guide to the useful and remarkable vegetable products in the two museum buildings of the Royal Gardens of Kew. London : Longman, Brown, Green and Longmans, & Roberts. 88 pp.
  8. Pain, S. 1990. Sir Joseph’s buried treasure. New Scientist 1708: 57-61.
  9. Ponsonby, L. 1998. Sir William’s legacy: Kew’s newly restored Museum of Economic Botany… Kew (Spring) 16-19. Download PDF Large file (16 MB)
  10. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew . 1930. Official Guide to the Museums of Economic Botany. 1. Dicotyledons. H.M.S.O., London. 249 pp.
  11. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 1928. Official Guide to the Museums of Economic Botany. 2. Monocotyledons and Cryptogams. H.M.S.O., London. 118 pp.
  12. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 1927. Official Guide to the Museums of Economic Botany. 3. Timbers and Gymnosperms. H.M.S.O., London. 149 pp.
  13. Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 1919. Official Guide to the Museums of Economic Botany. 4. British Forestry. H.M.S.O., London. 143 pp.
  14. Taylor, P. and J. Steele. 2003. Collections and research at Kew on UKOT species. UK Overseas Territories Conservation Forum 23: 10-11. Download PDF
  15. Wickens, G.E. 1984. Plants for man - the Kew data bank of economic plants.Internal Relations 8: 73-80.
  16. Wickens, G.E. 1989. Economic Botany and Kew in search for new plants. In Wickens, Haq and Day (eds), New crops for food and industry: 411-419. London: Chapman and Hall Ltd. 444 pp.
  17. Wickens, G.E. 1990. What is economic botany? Economic Botany 44(1): 12-28.Download PDF
  18. Wickens, G.E. 1993. Two centuries of economic botanists at Kew. Kew Magazine 10: 84-94, 132-137. Download PDF

The Economic Botany Collections (specific)

Archaeological Remains

  1. Boodle, L.A. 1932. Report on the plant material found in Tutankhamun’s tomb.Manuscript in Griffith Institute, Oxford.
  2. De Vartavan, C. 1990. Contaminated plant-foods from the yomb of Tutankhamun: a new interperative system. Journal of Archaeological Science 17: 473-494.
  3. De Vartavan, C. 1999. Hidden fields of Tutankhamun: from identification to interpretation of newly discovered plant material from the Pharaoh’s grave.London: Triade Exploration. 220 pp.
  4. Gale, R. and Cutler, D. 2000. Plants in archaeology: identification manual of vegetative plant materials used in Europe and the Southern Mediterranean to c.1500. Otley: Westbury Publishing and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 512 pp.
  5. Hepper, F.N. 1990. Pharaoh’s flowers. London: HMSO. 80 pp.
  6. McAleely, S. 2001. Flower arranging and archaeology. BSc Thesis, Institute of Archaeology, University College London.
  7. McAleely, S. 2005. Flower arranging in Ancient Egypt. Pp. 105-120 in Current Research in Egyptology IV. Kathryn Piquette & Serena Love (eds.). Oxford: Oxbow Books.


  1. Anon. 1848. Kew Gardens and Museum of Vegetable Products. Pharmaceutical Journal 7(4): 150-152.
  2. Anon. 1989. The Society’s drug collection “back to life” at Kew. Pharmaceutical Journal 243(6557): 544-545.
  3. Morris, K. 1998. Celebrating the vegetable kingdom. The Lancet 9128: 660.
  4. Shellard, E.J. 1981. The materia medica museum and herbaria of the Pharmaceutical Society. Pharmaceutical Journal (Aug 22): 201-209.
  5. Stockwell, C. 1989. Nature’s pharmacy: a history of plants and healing. London, Arrow Books in association with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 160 pp.


  1. Anon. 1992. Shake, rattle and blow. Plants and music… Kew (Summer) 31-32.Download PDF Large file (7 MB)
  2. Rumball, N. 1995. Textile restoration by the Textile Conservation Center.Conservation News 58: 26-29.
  3. Warr, G. 1987. The Wood Museum at Kew. Practical Wood Working, August: 418-421. Download PDF



  1. Anon. 1995. Putting plants to work: Kew’s collections show how stems, leaves and seeds have been put to daily use in Africa. Kew (Summer) 24-25. Download PDF Large file (8 MB)
  2. Bidgood, S. (2001). Ethiopian artefacts made with plant materials: vanishing wonders. Biologiske Skrifter 54: 311-318. Download PDF
  3. Dritsas, Lawrence. 2005. The Zambesi Expedition, 1858-64: African nature in the British scientific metropolis. (PhD thesis, November 2005, Centre of African Studies, University of Edinburgh). Covers Kew specimens from John Kirk and David Livingstone.
  4. Dritsas, Lawrence. 2005. From Lake Nyassa to Philadelphia: a geography of the Zambesi Expedition, 1858-64. British Journal for the History of Science 38(1): 35-52. Download PDF from Edinburgh Research Archive


  1. Armitage, G. 1989. The Schlagintweit collections. Indian Journal of History of Science 24(1): 67-83.
  2. Hastings, R.B. 1986. The relationships between the Indian Botanic Garden, Howrah and the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew in economic botany. Bulletin of the Botanical Survey of India 28(1-4): 1-12. Download PDF


  1. Austen, B. 1989. Tunbridge Ware and related European decorative woodwares. Kilarney.
  2. Dunlevy, M. and Nelson, E.C. 1995. Sir William’s Irish lace gifts from an Irish Viscountess. Curtis’s Botanical Magazine 12: 220-236.
  3. Hastings, L.H. 1996. The Botanic Gardens at Kew and the wartime need for medicines. Pharmaceutical Journal 257(6923): 923-927.Download PDF Large file (16 MB)
  4. Lawson, P. & Son. 1852. Synopsis of the vegetable products of Scotland in the Museum of the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew. Edinburgh, Private Press of P. Lawson and Son. 83 pp.

North America

  1. Mitchinson, P. 2001. ‘Economic botany’ outlives the Empire. A forgotten collection reveals the everyday loves of West Coast Indians in the 19th century — a far cry from masks and totem poles. National Post January 4, 2001.
  2. Ozimec, B., R.Y. Smith and H.D.V. Prendergast. (2004) The Canadian ethnographic collections of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. American Indian Art Magazine 29(2): 50-59. Download PDF

South America

  1. Field, D.V. 1996. Richard Spruce’s economic botany collection at Kew. In M. R. D. Seaward and S. M. D. FitzGerald (eds), Richard Spruce (1817-1893): botanist and explorer: 245-264. London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Download PDF
  2. Hooker, W.J. 1851-1855. Botanical objects communicated to the Kew Museum from the Amazon by Richard Spruce Esq. Hooker’s Journal of Botany & Kew Gardens Miscellany 2: 70-76; 5: 169-177, 238-247; 7: 209-210, 245-252.

Plant Group


  1. Williams, I. 2001. Views from the West. Chinese pith paper paintings. Arts of Asia 31(5): 140-149.


  1. Hairfield, H.H Jr. and Hairfield, E.M. 1990. Identification of a Late Bronze Age Resin. Analytical Chemistry 62, 41A.[Pistacia lentiscus]
  2. Jaeschke, H. 1991. Reflections on lacquer. Kew Spring 1991: 22-25. Download PDF Large file (14 MB)
  3. Prendergast, H.D.V., Jaeschke, H. and Rumball, N. 2001. A lacquer legacy at Kew. The Japanese collection of John J. Quin. London: Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. 100 pp. Details


  1. Hairfield, E.M., Hairfield, H.H. Jr. and Pentz, L.H. 1984. A rapid test for the identification of incense resins. Perfumer & Flavorist 9 (August/September): 33-36.
  2. Hairfield, E.M., Hairfield, H.H. Jr. and McNair, H.M. 1989. GC, GC/MS, and TLC of B-Boswellic Acid and O-Acetyl-B-Boswellic Acid from B. serrata, B. carteii,and B. papyrifera. Journal of Chromatographic Science, 27(3): 127-133.


  1. Prendergast, H.D.V. and Rumball, N. 2000. Walking sticks as seed savers - the case of the Jersey Kale [Brassica oleracea L. convar. acephala (DC.) Alef. var.viridis L.]. Economic Botany 54(2): 101-103. Download PDF


  1. Prendergast, H.D.V. and Decker-Walters, D.S. 2000. Preserving the gourd perspective (Lagenaria siceraria (Molina) Standl. (Cucurbitaceae)). Economic Botany 54(4): 424-426. Download PDF


  1. Simpson, D.A. and Inglis, C.A. 2001. Cyperaceae of economic, ethnobotanical and horticultural importance: a checklist. Kew Bulletin 56(2): 257-360. Book details


  1. Pearson, J. 2002. Dragons blood. The Horticulturalist 2002(spring): 10-12.Download PDF
  2. Pearson, J. and Prendergast, H.D.V. 2001. Daemonorops , Dracaena and other dragon’s blood. Economic Botany 55(4). Download PDF


  1. Holme, Charles. 1893. The uses of bamboo in Japan. Transactions and Proceedings of The Japan Society, London I: 23-48. Catalogue of collection of bamboo artefacts given to Kew in 1893; no longer held here. Download PDF


  1. Anon. 1994. Japanese paper gone abroad. From the exhibition of (Parkes) collections. Museum of Tobacco and Salt; Gifu Museum of History, Museum of Paper, Tokyo. [In Japanese.]
  2. Parkes, H. 1871. Reports on the manufacture of paper in Japan. London. Includes list of materials now held at Kew and at the Victoria and Albert Museum. Download PDF
  3. Schmoller, Hans. Mr. Gladstone’s Washi: A survey of reports on the manufacture of paper in Japan. The Parkes Report of 1871. Newtown, PA: Bird & Bull Press, 1984.
  4. Watt, S.A. 1988. The Parkes Collection housed at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew.. Sally Ann Watt. Dissertation.
  5. Webber, P. 1995. The Parkes Collection of Japanese paper. Conservation JournalApril: 5-9. Download PDF
  6. Webber, P. and Thompson, A. 1991. An introduction to the Parkes Collection of Japanese papers. The Paper Conservator 15: 15-16.


  1. License, O. 2003. Présentation de la collection du genre Vanilla du Centre for Economic Botany, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew (G. B.). L'Orchidophile 156: 61-68. Download PDF


  1. Barrow, S.C. 1998. Palm resources at the Centre for Economic Botany at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. Principes 42(3): 140-144. Download PDF
  2. Rostant, L. and Prendergast, H.D.V. 2001. Conservation of a Phoenix Raincape from the Philippines. Economic Botany 55(3): 341-343. Download PDF


  1. Daniels, V. 1999. Factors affecting the deterioration of the cellulosic fibers in black-dyed New Zealand flax (Phormium tenax). Studies in Conservation 44: 73-85.


  1. Prendergast, H.D.V. and Dolley, D. 2001. Jesuits’ bark (Cinchona [Rubiaceae]) and other medicines. Economic Botany 55(1): 3-6. Download PDF


  1. Prendergast, H.D.V. and G. Pearman. 2001. Comparing uses and collections - the example of Dodonaea viscosa Jacq. (Sapindaceae). Economic Botany 55(2): 184 -186. Download PDF


  1. Pearman, G. and Prendergast, H.D.V. 2000. Items from the lace-bark treeLagetta lagetto (W.Wright) Nash (Thymelaeaceae) from the Caribbean. Economic Botany 54(1): 4-6. Download PDF


  1. Prendergast, H.D.V., Kennedy, M.J., Webby, R.F., and Markham, K.R. 2000. Pollen cakes of Typha spp. (Typhaceae) - ‘lost’ and living food. Economic Botany54(3): 254-255. Download PDF


  1. Prendergast, H.D.V. 2002. Useful marine monocots - more collections than data?Economic Botany 56: 110-112. Download PDF

Suggestions for additional literature are welcome, and may be sent to through e-mail.