Current Institutional Affiliation
Lecturer, History, Colgate University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2011
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
History, State University of New York (SUNY) / Stony Brook University
The Ills of Empire: Managing Health and Populations in the British Atlantic World, 1707-1834

My project examines how population became a key problem for social and political authorities in eighteenth-century Britain and the Atlantic world. I focus especially on Britain and Jamaica between the formation of the British state in 1707 and the abolition of slavery in the British Empire in 1834. Through this framing, my project will contribute to a re-casting of the narratives and chronologies of modern forms of governance and their relation to nation, state, and empire. I posit that both the modern focus on managing populations as a means for ordering society and strategies for doing so emerged far earlier than scholarly focus on the nineteenth century suggests. During the eighteenth century, mercantilist ideas, Enlightenment principles, and the experiences and imperatives of colonialism, slavery, and warfare all made the health of populations a pressing issue for British and colonial authorities. This was especially true of the urban poor, sailors, soldiers, and slaves, who together constituted an invaluable, coerced imperial labor force. I will examine the efforts of doctors, government officials, colonists, military commanders, and philanthropists to change the health and conduct of members of these groups, and thereby cultivate productive, healthy populations. This approach will illuminate how the management of various subaltern groups informed each other across transatlantic circuits and became a crucial feature of new approaches to governing society. Situating this study in a comparative Atlantic context will also raise questions about the colony-metropole dyad that focus on the colonial production of the practices, not just the theories, of modern governance and their transformations in different contexts.