For the public benefit'
Livestock statistics and expertise in the late nineteenth-century Cape Colony, 1850-1900
in Science and society in southern Africa
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This chapter looks at the tensions surrounding agricultural statistics in the context of 'Progressive' and 'anti-Progressive' white politics. Livestock and crop enumeration could evoke strong sentiments in the Cape Colony in the late nineteenth century. Statistics on livestock and crop production were at the centre of debates on livestock disease legislation, the development of the railway network and even the nature of political representation in the Cape. As farmers developed their understandings of agricultural practice based largely on their own observations, agriculture was an environment in which the opinions of scientific experts were particularly vulnerable to criticism. The prominence of rationality and expertise in the Progressivist ethos made the construction of public discourse of scientific knowledge on the colony an urgent project. The proponents of 'progressive' farming were as convinced of the 'ignorance' and 'backwardness' of many of the colony's farmers as they were of the 'benefits' of scientific agriculture.

Editor: Saul Dubow


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