Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870–1950
Africa as a Living Laboratory: Empire, Development, and the Problem of Scientific Knowledge, 1870–1950. By Helen Tilley. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2011. xiv + 496 pp. Illustrations, tables, appendices, notes, bibliography, and index. Cloth $85.00, paper $29.00.
Africa as a Living Laboratory is not a book about Africa or Africans in a direct sense. Rather it is a monograph that looks primarily at how British scientists and policymakers conceptualized Africa, and how scientific ideas and research influenced public thinking about the continent. Helen Tilly emphasizes the importance of local knowledge in helping scientists to formulate their research questions and discoveries, but there is very little in the way of African citations, apart from those of white South African politicians and science enthusiasts such as Jan Smuts.
The importance of Tilley's monograph is that it shows how science was generated during the colonial period and it highlights the close connections between science and politics. She also demonstrates...