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Plants, insects, and the biological management of American empire: tropical agriculture in early twentieth-century Hawai‘i

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In the early Twentieth Century officials from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s experiment station in Honolulu and the territorial government’s Board of Commissioners of Agriculture and Forestry contemplated the agricultural tasks that they faced, they sought nothing less than wholesale biological management of the islands. Seed and plant introductions represented efforts to oversee botanical possibility, while quarantine and inspection regimes sought to contain the threat of issnvasive species. When unwanted insect travelers thwarted human oversight, the territorial government dispatched entomologists to distant places, particularly in other colonial regions of the world, to gather parasites that might combat insect pests. The different efforts to manage the island ecosystem in Hawai‘i reflected not just the biological basis of territorial rule, but also its embeddedness in intra-imperial, inter-imperial, and international relationships.
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Keywords: Hawai‘i; Tropical agriculture; biological control; botany; empire; entomology

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of History, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, Canada

Publication date: July 3, 2019

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