Empires of opportunity : German scholars between Asia and Europe in the 1850s
Title: Empires of opportunity : German scholars between Asia and Europe in the 1850s
Author: VON BRESCIUS, Moritz
Citation: Florence : European University Institute, 2015
Series/Number: EUI PhD theses; Department of History and Civilization
This thesis investigates the involvement of German scientific experts in the British Empire in Asia during the mid-nineteenth century. My study focuses in particular on a small band of scholars – the three Munich-born Schlagintweit brothers – who between 1854 and 1857 found employment in the East India Company, a former trading body that came to rule large parts of the Indian subcontinent. This central case study is used to demonstrate how the German lands, a country without colonies at the time, provided the scientific expertise for the exploration, administration, and exploitation of territories in South and Central Asia. Inspired by the paradigm of global history, my study makes a significant contribution to the recent endeavour to understand the transnational nature of European imperial systems in the modern period. In turn, I also assess how the contributions and ‘sacrifices’ of German scientists to the overseas rule of other European powers led to increasing claims by German politicians, journalists and public agitators that their own nation had also earned the status of a formal imperial power. By exploring the volatile nexus between science, empire, and popular discourses in Britain, India and the German lands, I reveal key elements of transnational collaboration and competition in around the mid-nineteenth century. The main focus of my analysis is on the problem of scientific authority, and how it is negotiated and contested in a transnational arena. The figure of the itinerant scientist is used to explore the fragile nature of scholarly reputation in the overlapping contexts of overseas exploration, metropolitan science and multiple public spheres in Europe.
Defence date: 17 February 2015; Examining Board: Prof. Dr. Antonella Romano (EUI / EHESS Paris); Prof. Dr. Jürgen Osterhammel (University of Konstanz); Prof. Dr. Simon Schaffer (University of Cambridge); Prof. Dr. Jorge Flores (EUI).
Type of Access: openAccess