Science as power in the Scramble for Africa: Scientific Networks and the diplomatic colonization of Africa in the late nineteenth century

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Abstract

Science diplomacy is usually discussed as a post-Second World War phenomenon. However, the links between science and diplomacy can be traced to earlier periods. This case analyzes one example related to the European colonization of Africa in the late nineteenth century, known as the "Scramble for Africa". Scientists usually perform only advisory roles in politics. In this case, a scientist attained important political responsibilities, ultimately becoming Minister of Foreign Affairs and conducting formal diplomatic negotiations. This scientist was José Vicente Barbosa du Bocage (1823-1907), a nineteenth-century Portuguese zoologist. Bocage's knowledge of African geography acquired via his scientific studies and at the head of the Lisbon Geographical Society, as well as the scientific, colonial, and political networks he joined or formed, allowed for his political rise. Once in a position of power, he placed knowledgeable Portuguese personalities at the center of colonial discussions with powerful rival countries, such as France and Germany, ultimately seizing some colonial victories for Portugal in Africa. This case shows that while science diplomacy can be a tool for cooperation, it can also be used to gain competitive advantage over rivals.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationInventing a Shared Science Diplomacy for Europe
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Case Studies to Think with History
EditorsClaire Mays, Léonard Laborie, Pascal Griset
Place of PublicationParis
PublisherZenodo
Chapter7
Pages27-34
Number of pages8
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2022

Keywords

  • African geography
  • geographical societies
  • colonialism
  • Scientific networks
  • Berlin Conference

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