This seminal study explores the national, imperial and indigenous interests at stake in a major survey expedition undertaken by the German Schlagintweit brothers, while in the employ of the East India Company, through South and Central Asia in the 1850s. It argues that German scientists, lacking in this period a formal empire of their own, seized the opportunity presented by other imperial systems to observe, record, collect and loot manuscripts, maps, and museological artefacts that shaped European understandings of the East. Drawing on archival research in three continents, von Brescius vividly explores the dynamics and conflicts of transcultural exploration beyond colonial frontiers in Asia. Analysing the contested careers of these imperial outsiders, he reveals significant changes in the culture of gentlemanly science, the violent negotiation of scientific authority in a transnational arena, and the transition from Humboldtian enquiry to a new disciplinary order. This book offers a new understanding of German science and its role in shaping foreign empires, and provides a revisionist account of the questions of authority and of authenticity in reportage from distant sites.
Moritz von Brescius (Universitat Bern Switzerland)
Cambridge University Press
Country of Publication:
Series: Science in History
12 November 2020
Professional and scholarly
Introduction: empires of opportunity; 1. Entering the company service: Anglo-German networks and the Schlagintweit mission to Asia; 2. Imperial recruitment and transnational science in India; 3. An ingenious management of patronage communities; 4. Making science in the field: a Eurasian expedition on the move; 5. The inner life of a 'European' expedition: cultural encounters and multiple hierarchies; 6. Contested exploration and the Indian Rebellion: the fateful year 1857; 7. The Schlagintweit collections, India museums, and the tensions of German museology; 8. Asymmetric reputations: memories of exploration and German colonial enterprise; Conclusion.
Moritz von Brescius, Ph.D., is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of Bern and Fellow of the Munich Centre for Global History, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich.
Reviews for German Science in the Age of Empire: Enterprise, Opportunity and the Schlagintweit Brothers
'Moritz von Brescius takes us to the heart of the fraught encounter between nineteenth-century science and power. Drawing on an extraordinary range of sources, he follows his fascinating protagonists through a world undergoing a process of globalisation that was as much about conflict as it was about connectivity. A brilliant and engagingly written case study of transnational science in the age of empire.' Christopher Clark, University of Cambridge 'This book is the definitive study of an extraordinary expedition. As well as telling the story of the Schlagintweit mission from a variety of perspectives, Moritz von Brescius situates it in the wider context of relations between imperial science, patronage and the state. This book will be required reading for historians of science and empire in Britain, Germany and South Asia.' Felix Driver, Royal Holloway, University of London '... it is evidence of the worth of von Brescius' contribution that it is certain to serve as a starting point for further research into the varied scientific and cultural legacies of the Schlagintweits' venture.' David Murphy, Metascience