Meteorology and empire

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This chapter surveys recent work on the entanglements of meteorology and empire. It argues that there has been a noticeable shift from histories which argue that Western imperial expansion helped lay the infrastructural groundwork of a future global atmospheric science, to work which examines meteorology and climatology in context, as colonial sciences. A promising shift away from teleological and hagiographic histories is under way, and we now know considerably more about how empire and meteorology were intertwined materially, practically, and intellectually. Meteorology contributed to colonial settlement, agriculture, and navigation—both marine and aerial—as well as helping reinforce the alleged superiority of European imperial actors. Nonetheless, there is more work to be done to uncover forgotten actors and voices in meteorology, such as those that served as “go-betweens” for different intellectual and political communities, or those whose knowledge systems were challenged, co-opted, or ignored in processes of colonisation. New transimperial perspectives have emerged which can help decentre discrete national stories, revealing how imperial sciences were intertwined with wider economic and political processes. Following these routes may enable historians of meteorology to contribute to contemporary debates about decolonising the sciences, particularly as they pertain to societies’ increasingly fraught relationships with climate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Handbook of Science and Empire
EditorsAndrew Goss
Number of pages12
ISBN (Electronic)9780429273360
ISBN (Print)9780367221256
Publication statusPublished - 2021

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