Africa as a Living LaboratoryEmpire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950

Africa as a Living LaboratoryEmpire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870-1950

Helen Tilley

Print publication date: 2013

ISBN: 9780226803463

Publisher: University of Chicago Press

Abstract

Tropical Africa was one of the last regions of the world to experience formal European colonialism, a process that coincided with the advent of a range of new scientific specialties and research methods. This book studies the relationship between imperialism and the role of scientific expertise—environmental, medical, racial, and anthropological—in the colonization of British Africa. A key source for the author's analysis is the African Research Survey, a project undertaken in the 1930s to explore how modern science was being applied to African problems. This project both embraced and recommended an interdisciplinary approach to research on Africa that underscored the heterogeneity of African environments and the interrelations among the problems being studied. While the aim of British colonialists was to transform and modernize Africa, their efforts were often unexpectedly subverted by scientific concerns with the local and vernacular. The book examines imperial history, colonial development, and the role science played in both.