Empire of scholars

Universities, networks and the British academic world 1850–1939

Tamson Pietsch
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At the start of the twenty-first century we are acutely conscious that universities operate within an entangled world of international scholarly connection. Empire of scholars examines the networks that linked academics in Britain and the settler world in the age of 'Victorian' globalisation. It argues that long-distance personal connections were crucial to the ways late nineteenth and early twentieth century universities operated and central to the making of knowledge in them, and shows that such networks created an expansive but exclusionary ‘British academic world’ that extended far beyond the borders of the British Isles. Drawing on extensive archival research, this book remaps the intellectual geographies of Britain and its empire. In doing so, it provides a new context for writing the history of ideas and offers a critical analysis of the connections that helped fashion the global world of universities today.

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‘Pietsch's readable study is a nuanced account of “the social and institutional practices of British and settler English-speaking universities” (p. 8) and explores libraries, scholarships, academic trafficking and appointment practices, and the formalization of imperial university relationships. The book, which is based on the records of the Association of Commonwealth Universities and its precursors, as well as a dozen or more university archives, includes a valuable calendar of dates of foundations of pre–World War II British and Empire universities. It is essential reading for historians of higher education.'
William H. Brock
Isis—Volume 107, Number 4
December 2016

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