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Botany, empire, religion and collecting in early nineteenth-century north India

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Dr Sujit Sivasundaram considers the question, was there a dialogue between the British and colonized populations which involved the exchange of scientific and religious tenets? Until recently historians held that science and Christianity diffused from Europe to the rest of the world, but the debate has now moved to an analysis of how much power Europeans wielded over the colonised with respect to knowledge. Examining the case of the Serampore missionaries in early nineteenth century Bengal, Dr Sivasundaram argues that science and Christianity were intimately related and localised. Dr Sivasundaram challenges the idea that the British were able to colonise Indian minds with respect to religion and science, or that there was a dialogue of ideas between Indians and Britons with respect to Christianity and science, and rather suggests that the Serampore missionaries orchestrated a carefully planned and controlled form of dialogue which offers new evidence of the exercise of power in dialogues of knowledge.

This talk is part of the Cabinet of Natural History series.

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