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Title: The scientific-military state, science and the making of American Government, 1776-1855
Author: Jóhannesson, Sveinn Máni
ISNI:       0000 0004 8500 9249
Awarding Body: University of Cambridge
Current Institution: University of Cambridge
Date of Award: 2018
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This dissertation explores the intertwined formations of the American state and American science. It argues that, from the founding of the republic, scientific knowledge was at the heart of the formation of the federal government, and the federal government was an important force in the development of science in America. Most scholarship on American history in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries ignores questions of government and science. Scholars usually assume that government had little place in the organisation and promotion of science until the Second World War. This study fundamentally changes this interpretation. It argues that Jeffersonian and Jacksonian statebuilders harnessed science to create a new kind of a central state-what I call 'the scientific-military state'-that was capable of projecting great power in accordance with liberty, limited government, and states' rights. Drawing on French statebuilding theories, these statemakers grasped that science constituted an innovative governing technique, one which promised to offset the need for large standing armies, sprawling bureaucracies, and heavy taxes. It was a force-multiplier of coercion, conquest and wealth, an effective alternative to a 'fiscal-military state'. Science achieved dominance within the military sphere in the wake of the War of 1812, and, then, also in the civilian domain with the electoral victory of Andrew Jackson in 1828. By placing science at the centre of public councils, the Jeffersonians and Jacksonians transformed the federal government into America's largest employer of scientists and technical experts. Americans did not reject a purposeful central state. Nor did they adopt a 'strong state' or a 'fiscal-military state' like much recent scholarship suggests. Rather, as this dissertation shows, they created a 'scientific-military state', a form of government that has hitherto been hidden from scholars who write about nineteenth-century America.
Supervisor: Gerstle, Gary Sponsor: Mellon Fund Scholarship
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Government ; Science ; Power