'The Fireblight Menace': Tracing Imperial Knowledge Networks, 1880-1939.

Activity: Talk or presentation typesPresentation


The crop disease, Fireblight, ravaged orchards in the United States, Canada, and New Zealand in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. As part of a wider project, tracing the knowledge creation and communication surrounding this disease by fruitgrowers, scientists, and governments, this paper will focus specifically on the shifting meanings of Fireblight and its impact when the disease crossed over the borders of New Zealand. In the context of the British Empire Dominion of Canada, fruitgrowers in the period 1880-1920 were part of a long-established and wide-ranging network of knowledge creation and communication whereby experienced orchardists with demonstrable success in fruitgrowing were considered just as much a source of ‘expert’ knowledge as academic scientists. In contrast, fruitgrowers in New Zealand in the period 1920-1939 were operating in the context of an industry in its relative infancy. The foundations of fruitgrowing (as with many other primary industries) in this Dominion were laid by the heavy involvement of the government and agricultural scientists. Through an investigation of the conversations, debates, and disagreements concerning Fireblight, this paper will conclude that the differing existing knowledge network contexts, combined with the spread of the disease from North America to a new geographic region, fostered new meanings and priorities in the discussions concerning Fireblight in an imperial orchard setting.
Period6 Oct 2023
Event titleAuthority and Expertise in Histories of Science, Medicine, and Technology 1650-1950: A Postgraduate Conference exploring the participation and evaluation of scientific knowledge during the modern period
Event typeConference
LocationSt Andrews, United KingdomShow on map
Degree of RecognitionLocal