Sowing the seeds of economic entomology: houseflies and the emergence of medical entomology in Britain

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The golden age of medical entomology, 1870-1920, is often celebrated for the elucidation of the aetiology of vector-borne diseases within the rubric of the emergent discipline of tropical medicine. Within these triumphal accounts, the origins of vector control science and technology remain curiously underexplored; yet vector control and eradication constituted the basis of the entomologists' expertise within the emergent specialism of medical entomology. New imperial historians have been sensitive to the ideological implications of vector control policies in the colonies and protectorates, but the reciprocal transfer of vector-control knowledge, practices and policies between periphery and core have received little attention. This paper argues that medical entomology arose in Britain as an amalgam of tropical medicine and agricultural entomology under the umbrella of "economic entomology". An examination of early twentieth-century anti-housefly campaigns sheds light on the relative importance of medical entomology as an imperial science for the careers, practices, and policies of economic entomologists working in Britain. Moreover, their sensitivity to vector ecology provides insight into late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century urban environments and environmental conditions of front-line war.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)321-328
Number of pages8
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2008


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