Between an Old and a New Scramble for Africa? Using the History of Science Diplomacy to Understand the Present

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In this article I reflect on my experience as a teacher in the first Warsaw Science Diplomacy School, which was hosted at the European Academy of Diplomacy in 2020. I organized a module on science diplomacy and the relations between Europe and Africa, building on the work I had been developing as a case study author in the context of the H2020 “Inventing a shared Science Diplomacy for Europe” (InsSciDE) project. I discussed the diplomatic role of a Portuguese nineteenth-century zoologist, José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage (1823-1907), who became Portugal’s Minister of Foreign Affairs during a critical period in the Scramble for Africa, in which his country competed with France and Belgium for international recognition of colonial sovereignty over the Congo region. I showed how Bocage’s political career was propelled by his insertion in scientific and colonial networks, and how he deployed them while in power to gain leverage in difficult diplomatic negotiations. The students of the Warsaw Science Diplomacy School 2020 appreciated the extent to which European colonialism in Africa recruited both science and diplomacy for political purposes, its enduring consequences on the diplomatic relations between the two continents, and how this case can illuminate the current race for power in Africa that has now drawn in new contenders, such as China and the United States.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)53-63
Number of pages11
JournalHistoire, Europe et relations internationales
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Europe-Africa relations
  • Colonialism
  • Lisbon Geographical Society
  • Berlin Conference 1884 -1885
  • Cooperation Policies


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