Imperial Science and the First World War: The case of the Imperial Bureau of Entomology
n the early 1910s, political, imperial, and scientific interests sought to expand the African Entomological Research Committee, with its limited geographic purview, into a new organisation for collaborative ‘imperial’ entomological research in the British Empire. This resulted in the 1913 establishment of the Imperial Bureau of Entomology (IBE), responsible for surveying significant insect threats in the colonies, providing entomological identification services, and disseminating abstracts of relevant publications from across the globe. However, the outbreak of the First World War in the following year presented a number of significant challenges for the new organisation. Major obstacles included the threat of budget cuts, key staff lost to mobilisation, and the disruption of scientific networks both within and beyond the Empire. Yet despite these difficulties, work continued and the IBE emerged from the war in a particularly strong position. Using the early history of the Imperial Bureau of Entomology as a case study, this paper will analyse the wartime impact of the First World War on the development of an ‘imperial science.’ Through this analysis this paper will also aim to shed new light on changing perceptions of science, disease, environment, and the Empire during the Great War.