Spring 2022 Colloquium - Jessica Ratcliff

Science and Technology Studies, Cornell University

East India docks

Title: Natural Monopoly: Colonial Science, Orders of Access, and the East India Company in London, 1757-1858

Abstract: This project investigates changing patterns of knowledge resource management at the British East India Company. It covers the years between the Company’s takeover of Bengal in 1757 and the abolition of the Company in 1858. At the beginning of the period, the Company generally depended upon individuals for the historical, linguistic, navigational, botanical, medical and other sciences upon which their operations depended. By the end of the period, the Company had taken over the direct management and production of many domains of colonial science. Along the way, the Company would become a key institution of science in London, establishing around 1800 a library, museum and two colleges in Britain. In this talk, I will first give an overview of the changing structure and geography of science under the Company. Out of this overview, the role that the East India Company played in shaping British science becomes clear, as does the debt that the organization of both modern states and modern sciences owe to the corporation as a form of governance. I will then consider the importance of this case for our understanding of the relationship between “state science” (or public science) and “corporate science” (or private science), and the fuzzy historical boundaries between these two orders of access.


Lectures begin at 3:35pm in 125 Nicholson Hall on the East Bank of the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities campus. As a reminder, masks are required indoors by University of Minnesota policy. 

The Program in History of Science, Technology and Medicine and the Minnesota Center for Philosophy of Science will host a joint lecture series during Spring 2022. At this time, all events will be in-person unless otherwise stated. Please contact hstm@umn.edu for more information. 



Start date
Friday, April 15, 2022, 3:35 p.m.
End date
Friday, April 15, 2022, 4:30 p.m.

Virtual via Zoom