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The role of imperial technology in the making of the 19th and 20th century world Versão para impressão Enviar por E-mail
Lisbon, March, 10-13, 2013. PROGRAMME HERE


Shaping landscapes and building expertise

The role of imperial technology in the making of the 19th and 20th century world


The theme

The role played by technology in the making of European empires is now fully acknowledged. Classical books on these issues, such as Daniel Headrick´s TheTools of the Empire, Michael Adas’Machine as the Measure of Men and Deepak Kumar’s and Roy MacLeod’s Technology and the Raj are mandatory reading in all courses on colonies and empires.

These classical theses on colonial technology have been later enriched and refreshed by the introduction of new concepts and actors: the idea of “Europeanizing the World/Provincializing Europe”, Gabrielle Hecht’s technopolitics, David Edgerton’s creole technology and the growing interest in “other” empires, sometimes anchored in small or/and peripheral, countries.

These new approaches highlight the use of technology to enact political power and to create/sustain a dynamic of cultural transfer and of entangled histories of mutual influence.

In this meeting we will focus on two main issues:

1) Reshaping colonial landscapes

Colonial technology allowed, through the construction of networks of infrastructures in the colonies, to “domesticate” human and non-human subjects. However, this was not an automatic process, but a conflicting one often showing the difficulties of transferring and/or adapting European technologies in tropical latitudes and the distance between the colonial rhetoric and its translation in the landscape (the scarcity of resources so often invoked by the colonial elites).

2) Colonial expertise and professional status

Colonial territories were used as experimental fields for metropolitan engineers (and as field laboratories for scientists): knowledge and professional and/or political status was acquired by European technical experts from their involvement in colonial technology and science. Moreover colonial territories were a very dynamic job market that supported the circulation of technologies, experts, and expertise both between Europe and colonies and between colonial powers. A significant number of scientific and technological institutions were created to support this new worldwide science and technology; the administration itself was redesigned in order to accommodate the “colonial corps” of engineers.

The colony was clearly perceived as a privileged trial field for technologies that would later be brought into the European arena. Many engineers, who were only able to find a job through their enrolment in colonial endeavours, used such an experience in their subsequent activity in Europe .

We aim at combining history of technology, political and economic history and sociology of professions and at encouraging comparative approaches, thus contributing to enlarge our perspective on this complex and multifaceted topic.


Abstract submission: October, 15, 2012

The abstract must have between 300 and 500 words and include the name(s) of the author(s), affiliation and e-mail. Please try to keep the title short (max.20 words)

Accepting the papers: November, 4, 2012

For further information or if you have any questions, please feel free to contact us at Fátima de Haan: Este endereço de e-mail está protegido de spam bots, pelo que necessita do Javascript activado para o visualizar

Website: http://imperialtechnology.ciuhct.com

We hope to hear from you!

Maria Paula Diogo

Chair of the Organizing Committee

This event is part of the scientific activities of the research project Reshaping Africa: Portuguese engineering and territory management in the colonies of Angola and Mozambique (1870-1974)