The University of Cambridge, academic expertise and the British empire, 1885-1962

2015-08-11T15:06:59Z (GMT) by Heike Jons
This paper examines how imperial travel of British academics shaped the production of knowledge and colonial policy from the 1880s to the 1960s. It employs an innovative, archive based methodology that examines the changing geographies of all recorded academic travel from the University of Cambridge in conjunction with the extensive overseas journeys of Sir Frank Leonard Engledow, Drapers’ Professor of Agriculture from 1930 to 1957 and a key advisor to the Colonial Office on tropical agriculture. Drawing on recent work in geography and science studies, this study outlines how scientific expertise was increasingly sought by colonial governments at the eve of decolonisation due to a lack of scientific infrastructure and growing social upheavals in the colonies. The analysis discusses related geographical shifts in the engagement of British academics with the colonial world and identifies a profound deepening of the uneven integration of different areas of empire into academic networks after 1945. Based on Engledow’s contribution to the Moyne Commission on theWest Indies (1938–1939) and ensuing colonial reform, it is argued that he represented, like many other late colonial British academic experts, a distinctively post- Victorian imperialist, whose strong belief in Christian faith, racial differences, colonial networks, humanitarianism, science and planning created an ambivalent positionality that explains why his expertise both supported and undermined colonial rule.