Between the Nation and the World: J.T. Wilson and scientific networks in the early twentieth century

Publisher:
Palgrave Macmillan
Publication Type:
Chapter
Citation:
Science and Empire: Knowledge and Networks of Science in the British Empire 1850-1970, 2011, pp. 140 - 160
Issue Date:
2011
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The categories of ‘metropole’ and ‘colony’ have long been fundamental to scholars’ imagination of empire. However in recent years, against the background of the contemporary consciousness of global forces, migration and postcolonialism, historians from both Great Britain and from the countries that previously fell under its influence have started to question their utility.1 Increasingly, the work of researchers has focused instead on the complex connections and the multiple and mutually constitutive practices that occurred between those who lived in and across imperial spaces. In doing so it has also challenged the partition of domestic and national from imperial history. In particular, a number of scholars have argued that one way of understanding this revisioned empire is to see it as a series of exchanges or networks. As noted by Joseph Hodge in Chapter 1, a number of distinct, but overlapping strands of scholarship characterize this new field.2 Influenced by colonial discourse theory, ‘new’ imperial historians have come to see Western culture as not just influenced but itself forged in the perpetually changing process of interaction between metropole and periphery. They have explored the ways that ‘raced’, ‘classed’ and ‘gendered’ imperial ‘Others’ helped to construct the identities of both colonized and colonizer, both in Britain and abroad. Catherine Hall’s work has been particularly influential and studies by Paul Gilroy, Mrinalini Sinha and Antoinette Burton among others have been guided by similar aims.3 British history, these historians argue, ‘has to be transnational’: challenging the binary of imperial and national histories ‘and critically scrutinising the ways in which it has functioned as a way of normalising power relations and erasing our dependence on and exploitation of others’.
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