Science at the end of empire

Experts and the development of the British Caribbean, 1940-62

By Sabine Clarke

Science at the end of empire

Book Information

  • Format: Hardcover
  • ISBN: 978-1-5261-3138-6
  • Pages: 224
  • Publisher: Manchester University Press
  • Price: £25.00
  • Published Date: September 2018
  • BIC Category: Modern History, SCIENCE / History, HISTORY / Caribbean & West Indies / General, HISTORY / Europe / Great Britain / 20th Century, Caribbean islands, Mathematics & science / History of science, Reference, information & interdisciplinary subjects / Development studies, Humanities / Colonialism & imperialism, History, United Kingdom, Great Britain, Industrial chemistry & chemical engineering, Colonialism & imperialism
  • Series: Studies in Imperialism


This book is open access under a CC BY license.

This is the first account of Britain's plans for industrial development in its Caribbean colonies - something that historians have usually said Britain never contemplated. It shows that Britain's remedy to the poor economic conditions in the Caribbean gave a key role to laboratory research to re-invent sugarcane as the raw material for making fuels, plastics and drugs. Science at the end of empire explores the practical and also political functions of scientific research and economic advisors for Britain at a moment in which Caribbean governments operated with increasing autonomy and the US was intent on expanding its influence in the region. Britain's preferred path to industrial development was threatened by an alternative promoted through the Caribbean Commission. The provision of knowledge and expertise became key routes by which Britain and America competed to shape the future of the region, and their place in it.


'Sabine Clarke's Science at the End of Empire is a case in point-and a welcome contribution as
the first book to focus on British colonial science policy in the Caribbean during the waning decades of
empire. [...] Clarke's book should be of interest not only to Caribbeanists and historians of science in the British
Empire, but also to anyone involved with questions of economic development, decolonization, and science
policy. Those concerned more broadly with the interplay of state and business interests in shaping
research and development should also take note. Conveniently, it is available as an open-access publication,
which should aid it in reaching historians of science in the Caribbean and beyond.
Isis Journal


1. New uses for sugar
2. Scientific research and colonial development after 1940
3. 'Men, money and advice' for Caribbean development
4. Laboratory science, laissez-faire economics and modernity
5. An industrialisation programme for Trinidad
6. Bringing research 'down from the skies'
7. Conclusion: Science and industrial development: lessons from Britain's imperial past


Sabine Clarke is Lecturer in Modern History at the University of York

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