Lecture 3. Sanitation, Climate and Statecraft in Colonial Societies

This lecture is concerned with the development and exchange of ideas and principles that have informed the designs of towns, buildings and landscapes in former British colonial territories (late17thC – Mid 20C). We will be looking at what Georg Simmel called the ‘visible institutions of the state’ – that is, those buildings and projects that enabled the British Empire to exist - the very mechanisms for imperial advancement. We will be focusing primarily on four geographical areas: The West Indies, British West Africa, Iraq and India and spanning the considerable timeframe of late 17C – mid20C – so this lecture is very much an introduction. The case studies, many of which are yet to feature in global histories of architecture, attempt to show that a response to climate, as well as political agendas, materials, labour, imperial ambition and health have been key drivers in the formation of late colonial cities, individual buildings and streetscapes. Many factors influence the design of architecture, not least cost, materials and labour. Climate is but one factor, made all the more complicated in the colonial landscape because of the power differentials at stake, coupled with the belief that the hot and humid climates of the tropics was itself toxic and dangerous to European health.

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