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Environments of EmpireNetworks and Agents of Ecological Change$
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Ulrike Kirchberger and Brett M. Bennett

Print publication date: 2020

Print ISBN-13: 9781469655932

Published to North Carolina Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5149/northcarolina/9781469655932.001.0001

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Inventing Colonial Agronomy

Inventing Colonial Agronomy

Buitenzorg and the Transition from the Western to the Eastern Model of Colonial Agriculture, 1880s–1930s

(p.103) Inventing Colonial Agronomy
Environments of Empire

Florian Wagner

University of North Carolina Press

After European colonizers had appropriated the so-called “new territories” in Africa in the 1880s, their main concern was to turn them into profitable agricultural estates. This chapter examines the contribution of the Buitenzorg botanical gardens in Dutch Java to the making of the colonial plantation economy in Africa and Asia. It argues that, by 1900, Buitenzorg had become the single-most cherished model for agronomic engineering in the “new territories” and beyond. In Buitenzorg, international experts had established several research laboratories that excelled in crop genetics. They increased the yield of cocoa, tobacco, coffee or coutchouc plants and made them resistant against pests. In doing so, Buitenzorg emancipated botany from its descriptive origins and transformed it into an applied science of agronomy that served the purposes of colonial governments. At the beginning of the twentieth century, Buitenzorg was an important global hub of cash crop exchange and controlled most transfers of modern techniques to foster colonial development.

Keywords:   Buitenzorg, colonial agronomy, plantation economy, Florian Wagner

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