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Dossier : Entanglements of Architecture and Comfort beyond the Temperate Zone

Imperial Atmospheres: Race and Climate Control on the Niger

Dustin Valen

Résumés

Résumé

Atmosphères impériales : races et climatisation au Niger. Cette étude décrit comment les technologies environnementales du XIXe siècle ont permis de « délocaliser » le climat, en faisant retour sur une expédition britannique de 1841 sur le fleuve Niger. Pour protéger les marins blancs des rigueurs du climat africain, l’ingénieur écossais David Boswell Reid dut équiper trois cuirassés à vapeur de chambres pressurisées sous le pont, dotées d’une prise d’air centralisée, et dont l’atmosphère était assainie par des traitements chimiques. Cette mission au Niger illustre combien les pratiques victoriennes en matière de ventilation étaient influencées par une conception linéaire et univoque du progrès, pour laquelle le climat était un marqueur clé de l’évolution animale, végétale et humaine. Les climats tropicaux étaient considérés comme néfastes pour les organismes européens et comme un frein à la civilisation, tandis que des conditions climatiques semblables à celles de la Grande Bretagne étaient propices à la colonisation. Basé sur des revues et des rapports médicaux, cet article questionne les pratiques du XIXe siècle en matière de ventilation, au prisme des fantasmes suscités par les Tropiques à cette époque. Il présente la climatisation comme une « mission écologique » associée au grand projet impérialiste britannique et place l’émergence des idées occidentales de confort et de climatisation à l’interface des discours anthropologiques et des intérêts coloniaux en zone tropicale.

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Introduction

1The advent of mechanical climate control in the nineteenth century was a milestone event allowing British architects and engineers to literally change climate at a material level by regulating atmospheric conditions inside of buildings. This development was informed by the work of horticulturists who created artificial climates inside purpose-built glass structures—greenhouses, hothouses, etc. However, although horticulturists succeeded in relocating tropical climates and plants to Britain, relocating British climates and people to the tropics remained a difficult task. Despite numerous advances in building heating and ventilation during the early nineteenth century, effective means of cooling and dehumidifying the air eluded practitioners until widespread electrification after the early twentieth century. Nevertheless, nineteenth-century environmental technologies vested architects and engineers with considerable scientific authority.

  • 1 See, for example, Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, London: Archit (...)
  • 2 For an overview of Victorian environmental medicine and its climatic concerns, see Vladimir Jankov (...)
  • 3 Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Contesting Space in Colonial Singapore: Power Relations and the Urban Built Env (...)

2Much of the scholarship surrounding the theory and practice of climate control relates this technology to Britain’s own worsening climate in crowded industrial cities, such as Manchester, Glasgow, and Newcastle.1 These adverse environmental conditions are typified by London’s notorious “fog”—a mixture of atmospheric moisture and coal smoke, made fragrant by the nearby cesspit known as the River Thames. Indeed, the idea that climate and health were related was renewed with considerable force in the nineteenth century as sanitarians came to view poor environmental conditions as a leading public health concern.2 This essay takes a different approach. In particular, it examines how environmental technologies developed in response to foreign climates thought to be deadly to white, European bodies. These climates were located throughout the torrid zone—a tropical region bounded by the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, and stretching across large parts of South America, Africa, and Indonesia. A number of contemporary architectural writers have, like myself, been investigating how tropical colonies served as laboratories for the development and testing of environmental policies and technologies meant to improve the comfort and health of white settlers. These policies and technologies conflated Western urban anxieties with centuries-old climatic theories that applied around the globe, and established new vectors for the application and representation of imperial control.3

  • 4 See, for example, James Clark, The Influence of Climate in the Prevention and Cure of Chronic Dise (...)
  • 5 Mark Harrison, Climates and Constitutions: Health, Race, Environment and British Imperialism in In (...)
  • 6 David Livingstone, “Human Acclimatization: Perspectives on a Contested Field of Enquiry in Science (...)
  • 7 See Philip D. Curtin, Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical World in the Ninete (...)

3Tropical geographies located in the torrid zone presented significant challenges to British colonizers. Physicians, for example, warned that warm and humid climates, by interfering with perspiration and blood flow, encouraged the accumulation of morbid poisons in the body. They were convinced that sudden changes in climate impaired the mental and physical faculties of British travelers. They also associated miasmatic diseases—a set of contagions thought to be spread by noxious vapors suspended in the air—with warm climates where organic matter decomposed more quickly.4 The British fear of the tropics was compounded by racial theorists who argued that hot and humid climates had a degenerative effect on the moral and physical capacity of Europeans. Indeed, according to Victorian notions of natural law, climate and race were inextricably bound together. Since the Enlightenment, European writers had encouraged the idea that climate produced physical and moral change in its inhabitants, and that climatic differences were responsible for the racial character and progress of societies as humans migrated outward from the cradle of civilization. By the nineteenth century, however, the adaptability of racial types was seriously questioned by writers who argued in favor of biological fixity instead, including the belief that individuals were tethered to specific climatic regions on account of their immutable constitutions.5 Nineteenth-century natural scientists and anatomists advanced the idea that through their physiological makeup, all living organisms—including people—were acclimatized to specific environmental conditions, and would deteriorate if removed from these conditions.6 Medical practitioners and scientific elites cultivated a pathological fear of the “deadly tropics.”7 Yet out of this fear grew a sustained interest in using artificial climates as a prophylactic against the allegedly harmful effects of natural ones.

  • 8 For an account of the Niger expedition, including its underlying Christian civilizing impulse, see (...)
  • 9 Lander was spared from the effects of the African climate by local inhabitants who shot and killed (...)

4One case study serves to highlight this approach. In 1841, the British government backed anti-slavery activists and missionary groups in mounting an expedition to the Niger River under the command of Captain Henry Dundas Trotter, and in consultation with Scottish physician, chemist, and ventilation engineer David Boswell Reid (fig. 1). The object of the expedition was to spread Christianity, gather scientific data, and lessen the slave trade by integrating parts of Africa into the British economy through “legitimate” trading activities. This was to be accomplished by entering into as many treaty agreements as possible with African chieftains. In exchange for European trade goods and royalties on all trade conducted within their territory, Africans were expected to abandon the slave trade, accept European missionaries, and cultivate valuable export commodities desired by British merchants, such as ivory, cotton, indigo, and palm oil.8 It was also the first mission to the Niger since a disastrous attempt by English explorer Richard Lander in 1832 resulted in the death of over eighty per cent of his crew—all victims of the deadly African climate.9

Figure 1: Samuel Walters, The Niger Expedition... off Holyhead... August-October 1841, HMS ‘Albert’, ‘Sudan’ and ‘Wilberforce’, 1841.

Figure 1: Samuel Walters, The Niger Expedition... off Holyhead... August-October 1841, HMS ‘Albert’, ‘Sudan’ and ‘Wilberforce’, 1841.

Source: London (United Kingdom), Greenwich, National Maritime Museum.

  • 10 Edward J. Gillin, “Science on the Niger: Ventilation and Tropical Disease during the 1841 Niger Ex (...)
  • 11 Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princet (...)

5As Edward Gillin argues, the Niger expedition illustrates powerfully how technology, medicine, and imperialism were intertwined. Despite its ultimate failure, the expedition stoked confidence in the ability of rational science to further the colonial enterprise.10 However, the architectural consequences of this experiment merit further attention. In addition, existing accounts do not adequately address the extent to which climate control was a field for the practical application of racial anthropology. As Ann Stoler reminds us, “pursuits of exploitation and enlightenment are not mutually exclusive but deeply entangled projects.”11 In particular, Reid’s efforts aboard the Niger mission reveal how new environmental technologies allowed the relocation of climates to be reversed. Instead of relocating warm climates inside British glasshouses, climate control allowed engineers and other scientific elites to export temperate climates abroad, transforming the air itself into a medium for cultural exchange, and a tool for implementing hierarchies of race and power in colonial settings.

  • 12 Ken Alder, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815, Princeton, NJ: (...)

6At the same time, the Niger expedition offers evidence of how new environmental technologies stood at the confluence of metropolitan and tropical knowledge. The Victorians’ desire to bring climate control to bear on the African continent signals the extent to which epistemologies of the metropole and building experiments on the periphery of the empire were interdependent. Ken Alder’s assertion that “engineering is always social engineering” rings especially true in the colonial domain.12 Seen in this light, Reid’s intervention aboard the Niger mission represents an uneasy milestone in the progress of building science. In arguing that artificial climates could further imperial interests in the torrid zone, Reid helped inaugurate the idea that white colonizers could inhabit equatorial geographies and deliver Western civilization to the far reaches of the empire by bringing their temperate, European airs with them. Similarly, notwithstanding its catastrophic results, the Niger mission hinted at the ability of artificial climates to preserve European hegemony in the tropics, using conditioned air to create new spatial gradations of inclusion and exclusion in colonial settings, and constituting a new ecological mission within the broader project of British imperialism.

Preparations

  • 13 See David Arnold (ed.), Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 15 (...)

7The colonization of Africa by Europeans was not widespread by the 1840s. European governors presided over a handful of coastal trading forts, but the interior of the continent remained virtually inaccessible and tropical climates remained an acute source of fear for Europeans. Prior to the Niger mission, tropical medicine focused on curative treatments, such as bloodletting, blistering, cupping, and administering mercury, since physicians could do little to alter the climate itself.13 However, in 1841 Reid undertook a radical experiment to protect white colonizers by constructing an artificial, temperate climate aboard three iron steam ships commissioned for the Niger mission.

  • 14 John F. Daniell, “Report of Professor Daniell on the Waters of the African Rivers,” The Nautical M (...)

8Planning efforts for the mission reflected a deep-seated fear of the tropics and a naïve understanding of the spread of infectious disease. Chief among mission leaders’ concerns was how to prevent the spread of malaria, now known to be a disease transmitted only by the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. However, at the time, miasma theory prevailed, and the cause of malaria was thought to be airborne poisons resulting from the decomposition of organic matter. In 1841, English chemist and physicist John Frederic Daniell theorized a connection between malaria and the presence of decaying organic matter in sea water, detectable by the presence of hydrosulfuric acid. This observation—made on the eve of the Niger expedition—added to the extreme fear of the river’s murky, alluvial waters and of the lush tropical vegetation spilling over its banks, which flooded during the rainy seasons (fig. 2).14

Figure 2: View on the Niger River.

Figure 2: View on the Niger River.

Source: William Allen, Picturesque Views on the River Niger, Sketches during Lander’s Last Visit in 1832-33, London: John Murray, 1849, facing p. 9.

  • 15 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2. Compri (...)
  • 16 Ibid., p. 23.
  • 17 “Niger Expedition,” The Friend of Africa, vol. 1, no. 1, 1841, p. 10-11.
  • 18 William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, A Narrative of the Expedition Sent by Her Majesty’s Governmen (...)
  • 19 Ibid., p. 6.

9Based on this medical theory, expedition authorities took steps to mitigate the effects of the African climate and disinfect its airs. They recruited only young men, preferably those with prior experience travelling in warm climates.15 And all crew members were required to complete a survey listing their physical traits and medical and family history, in an effort to ascertain which “constitutions seem best adapted to the climate of Africa.”16 The mission was also accompanied by a retinue of natural scientists, including a botanist, geologist, and mineralogist, as well as a representative from the Zoological Society and a plant collector.17 Indeed, despite the mission’s overarching cautionary tone, the British Admiralty exhibited considerable faith in the Victorian scientific community. Based on Daniell’s malarial theory, expedition leaders were initially eager to reach the mouth of the Niger in March. That month, at the beginning of the rainy season, was considered to be a comparatively “healthy” time on the river, when it had not yet overflowed its banks, and when tropical storms had a “refreshing effect” on the surrounding atmosphere. However, this timeline was later deemed impractical, since the Niger delta was too shallow to be navigable until July.18 Another problem lay in the fact that the majority of sailors hired aboard the mission in England were white. Out of the 178 men who embarked on the expedition, just 28 were listed as “men of colour of various Nations.”19 Expedition authorities reconciled themselves to this last fact by commissioning Reid, a highly reputable physician and scientist, to protect white sailors aboard the mission by devising a system to condition and disinfect the air.

  • 20 Henrik Schoenefeldt, “The Temporary Houses of Parliament and David Boswell Reid’s Architecture of (...)
  • 21 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, London: Longman, Brown, Gr (...)
  • 22 Southwood Smith, A Treatise on Fever, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green, 1830, p. 364.

10Reid became well-known after 1835 as an expert on ventilation for his design of a system for the temporary English House of Commons (fig. 3). By treating the entire building as a sealed chamber with fresh air supplied through the floor and drawn out through the ceiling by an immense chimney, he effectively limited the infiltration of outside air to a single inlet, where it was filtered using wet sheets of fabric and water jets before entering the House.20 Reid was also an experimental chemist and a physician, and his ventilating theory was shaped in large part by these practices. He subscribed to the beliefs that climate and health were related, and that impurities were exhaled from the lungs and excreted through the sweat glands. Circulating air and producing evaporation were thus crucial to ridding the body of impurities.21 In 1830, Southwood Smith of the London Fever Hospital stated this theory in a way that aroused British fears of the torrid zone by comparing “the room of a fever-patient, in a small and heated apartment in London” with no fresh air to a “stagnant pool in Ethiopia, full of the bodies of dead locusts.”22

Figure 3: Interior view of the Temporary House of Commons, ca. 1836.

Figure 3: Interior view of the Temporary House of Commons, ca. 1836.

Source: Arnold Wright and Philip Smith, Parliament Past and Present, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1902, p. 381.

  • 23 Reid employed similar, empirical methodologies to monitor the physiological and psychological comf (...)
  • 24 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 215 (...)

11Reid went one step further. As professor of chemistry at the University of Edinburgh, he attempted to quantify this theory using experimental methodologies. He measured the comfort and health of hundreds of test patients whom he placed in sealed chambers and subjected to varying degrees of heat and fresh air.23 Based on these experiments, Reid recommended the construction of special chambers in hospitals and other facilities where the air could be heated and moistened to any degree and medicated to treat disease. In an 1844 treatise, he listed thirty-four varieties of “air baths” useful in treating patients, ranging from the application of “rapid moist and warm air,” to air dosed with nitrous oxide, mercury, sulphur, and ammonia, as well as scents such as lavender, orange, and camphor.24 The Niger mission permitted Reid to test this theory on an architectural scale.

  • 25 The Morning Post (London), March 22, 1841.
  • 26 For a description of the ventilation system, see David B. Reid, “Dr. Reid of the Ventilation of th (...)

12Reid based his design for the ventilation system aboard the Niger ships on the temporary House of Commons. He even led expedition authorities on a tour of the building, pointing out several ventilating principles which he hoped to replicate aboard the mission.25 In preparing for the expedition, three iron steam ships were commissioned: the Albert and Wilberforce, each 139 feet long, and the smaller Soudan, measuring 113 feet. Each of these shallow-draft ships designed for river navigation was fitted with a paddle wheel. Reid’s ventilation system consisted of a centralized air intake connected to a wind sail above and a network of ventilation tubes below, carrying clean air into five watertight bulkheads. The canvas wind sail was designed to draw in air from as high above the surface of the river as possible since Reid believed that air quality improved with elevation. Under normal operating conditions, the bulkhead compartments were to remain pressurized, with exhaust air exiting through a series of operable panels located along the ships’ sides. The air intake was powered by two steam driven fanners which could be connected to the paddle wheels or operated manually to force air below deck (fig. 4).26

Figure 4: Plan of ventilation scheme aboard the three Niger ships.

Figure 4: Plan of ventilation scheme aboard the three Niger ships.

Source: James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, London: John Churchill, 1843, p. 255.

  • 27 Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, March 24, 1841, p. 1.

13It was also a highly adaptable system. Operable vents allowed the amount of air flowing into any one of the five bulkheads to be adjusted, and the flow of air could be reversed in order to quickly exhaust air from below deck. Heated air from the engine room could also be directed into the various compartments to help dry them—a critical concern in the humid tropics. To illustrate the efficacy of his system and its different capabilities, Reid lit gunpowder and burnt essential oils aboard the ships so that spectators could visualize and sniff out the deliberate movement of air.27

14To protect against tropical diseases, each ship was fitted a medicator—an apparatus designed to purify the atmosphere below deck by filtering out mechanical impurities, regulating its humidity, and infusing the air with chemicals to neutralize airborne poisons. Each medicator consisted of large iron chest ranging from two to three thousand cubic feet in size in which a variety of substances, including burnt lime and chloride of calcium, were placed on metal trays, as well as filtering cloths made out of fine wool bunting (fig. 5).

Figure 5: The Medicator.

Figure 5: The Medicator.

Source: David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1844, p. 407.

  • 28 Reid also designed a system of ventilation for the Minden, a hospital ship used to transport wound (...)
  • 29 William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, A Narrative of the Expedition Sent by Her Majesty’s Governmen (...)
  • 30 James McWilliam, for example, noted how “experiments were frequently made to ascertain the power o (...)

15Reid’s complex design was the first attempt to use artificial ventilation aboard an entire ship.28 Implementing it proved expensive and time-consuming. The expedition’s departure was consequently delayed, much to the ire of Captain Trotter.29 Nonetheless, Reid believed that this technical solution would allow British bodies to be safely conveyed through the Niger delta and into the heart of the African continent, by encapsulating them in an artificial and medicated atmosphere below deck. Reid’s experiment attracted considerable attention, and members of the British scientific community witnessed several tests aboard the three ships.30

  • 31 Monogenism was not without its detractors. Polygenists, for example, defied biblical wisdom by arg (...)
  • 32 Rebecca Preston, “‘The Scenery of the Torrid Zone’: Imagined Travels and the Culture of Exotics in (...)

16Disease, however, was not the only danger facing white crew members. Many British intellectuals promoted the idea that climate influenced the physical and social evolution of the world’s civilizations. Climate accounted for different species of plants and animals, but also the different races and cultures of humankind. Monogenist anthropologists, for example, believed that all humans had descended from an original, European race, and that racial types were the result of the degenerative effects of climate. Anthropology helped sustain the idea that European cultural and political institutions were contingent on specific geographic features, as well as the belief that European races were unsuited to live in foreign environments since biological differences rendered white bodies vulnerable to extremes of heat or cold.31 Natural scientists helped corroborate this view by revealing how vegetable and animal adaptations were inextricably linked to climate. Early nineteenth-century writers and later Victorians typically highlighted the interdependency of society, geography, and climate. Charles Darwin, for example, drew an explicit connection between the geographical distribution of what he called “useful” plant life and the distribution of civilized men and nations, arguing in The Origin of Species (1859) that native African plants had not been improved through careful cultivation and were therefore a hindrance to the evolution of African races.32

  • 33 Neil Arnott, On Warming and Ventilating, London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838 ( (...)
  • 34 Ibid., p. 11-12.
  • 35 Walter Bernan, On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Rooms and Buildings by Open Fires (...)
  • 36 David B. Reid, “On the ‘Progress of Architecture in Relation to Ventilation, Warming, Lighting, Fi (...)

17This science was repeated in treatises on warming and ventilating. In 1838, physician Neil Arnott explained how the “the necessities of life” (i.e. warmth, pure air, good food, and exercise) were only discoverable by “educated members of civilized communities.”33 The realization that pure air was essential to health, for example, could only be discovered by societies where advanced building practices allowed for the creation of closed apartments. Likewise, the value of exercise could only be discovered after men of rank and class rose above the need to work.34 Warm climates where clothing and shelter were not required thus inhibited an awareness of the physiological principles of climate, comfort, and health. Similarly, in his History of Warming and Ventilating (1845), Walter Bernan asserted that it was ancient opinion that “the greater frequency and higher standard of bodily and intellectual endowment in some communities” was attributable to “the influence of climate.”35 Reid expressed similar views. In a lecture at the Smithsonian Institution, he reiterated how all races were descended from an original man. As mankind migrated northwards, he explained, “new climates, new wants, and new occupations stimulated his ingenuity and rewarded his invention as much as it increased his comforts.”36

  • 37 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 401

18All of this theory placed tropical inhabitants squarely at the bottom of civilization’s ladder. The Niger journals are filled with evidence of European attitudes towards Africans, including the belief that they were inherently lazy, irrational, and odorous. In the eyes of British intellectuals, these were typical symptoms of a hot and humid climate. Reid agreed, writing that hot climates were liable to produce a “subduing influence” on individuals, prostrating their “mental faculties, as well as the bodily strength.”37

  • 38 Dane Kennedy, “The Perils of the Midday Sun: Climatic Anxieties in the Colonial Tropics,” in John  (...)
  • 39 David B. Reid, “Dr. Reid of the Ventilation of the Niger Steam Vessels,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 43 (...)
  • 40 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. ci (...)
  • 41 Sailors were, however, permitted to drink water from the Niger, provided they boiled it and purifi (...)

19Anthropology instrumentalized race within an imperial discourse, while highlighting the precarious nature of colonizers’ work. Deterministic theories of climate posed a special problem for colonizers since they held that individuals acclimatized to one region would become physically, mentally, and morally degraded if they relocated to another. Within Western tropical discourse, white colonizers were theorized as “fragile outsiders” who required constant protection from the surrounding climate by erecting environmental barriers.38 Similarly, every effort was made aboard the Niger mission to minimize contact between white sailors and the exterior climate. In a paper detailing the operation of the ventilation system, Reid explained how white crew members could traverse dangerous climates by confining themselves below deck in an artificial state.39 This, of course, necessitated hiring a second crew. Out of a total of 303 crew members, 110 were black Kroomen and liberated Africans hired during a stopover in Sierra Leone and selected for their resistance to tropical diseases.40 Captain Trotter also adopted strict rules aboard the expedition in accordance with Reid’s advice. White crew members were required to sleep below deck and were discouraged from spending time above when near the coast or on a river. When whites were required on deck in “unhealthy localities” they were provided with respirators, and fires were kept going to mitigate the damp. Unlike Kroomen who worked and slept above, whites were prohibited from exposing themselves to the midday sun, evening dews, or night airs. They were also barred from going ashore between sunset and an hour after sunrise. A strict dress code for white sailors specified they had to wear straw hats to shield them from the sun. They were required to keep their clothing and person dry at all times, to prevent moisture from accumulating below deck.41

  • 42 Anya Zilberstein, A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America, New York, NY: Oxford (...)
  • 43 Suzanne Zeller, “Environment, Culture, and the Reception of Darwin in Canada, 1859-1909,” in Ronal (...)
  • 44 James Johnson and James Ranald Martin, The Influences of Tropical Climates on European Constitutio (...)

20The organization of air and bodies aboard the Niger mission reproduced an anthropological worldview in which climate was the chief determinant of race. It also upended the more typical organization of bodies aboard European slave ships, in which blacks were confined below. However, by segregating white bodies in an artificial climate, Reid’s intervention simultaneously signalled an emergent imperial-environmental paradigm. For centuries, theories of unilineal progress impelled the belief that progressive improvement in the colonies would gradually lessen differences between New World geographies and the cultivated landscape of northern Europe, thus aiding in the spread of European institutions and social norms. British agricultural improvers in the Atlantic northeast, for example, believed they were creating “mutual reforms in local society and environment,” and that “progressive improvement would erode any sharp distinctions between the region and other cultivated, temperate places.”42 Likewise, in British North America pioneers believed that clearing and cultivating the land would prevent their moral and physical degeneration by tempering the region’s northern climate.43 An 1841 edition of James Johnson’s The Influence of Tropical Climates on European Constitutions even outlined methods of “improving the local climate” in Calcutta by draining marshes and clearing tropical jungles. By eliminating these sources of evaporation, Johnson argued, local atmospheric humidity would be lessened and the region’s climate made more amenable to European constitutions.44

  • 45 William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, A Narrative of the Expedition Sent by Her Majesty’s Governmen (...)

21Climate control signaled a new approach to preserving Europeans’ constitutions abroad and effecting climate change. By allowing engineers and architects to modify foreign climates in a highly localized manner, climate control illustrated how new zones of contact could be created in the colonies, out of which to transform hostile environments and make them fit for British bodies and institutions. Likewise, mission authorities aspired to create environmental change on the African continent. By introducing new plants and enticing African chiefs to sow economically valuable crops, the Niger mission would simultaneously improve the African climate by making its landscape productive, while stemming the effects of racial regression by introducing Christianity’s civilizing influence and the moral discipline of labor. To this end, expedition authorities consulted with experts on the most useful seeds and plants to introduce into Africa. They also established a model farm in the interior of the African continent, enlisting Alfred Carr, a Londoner of West Indian decent, to serve as its superintendent, along with some two dozen ex-slaves to serve as farm laborers.45

Departure

  • 46 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. ci (...)
  • 47 These differences were measured aboard the Albert from August 20-25, not long after the ship enter (...)

22The expedition left London in May and reached the mouth of the Niger three months later in August 1841. Surgeons were placed in charge of the ventilation system aboard each ship and the compartments below deck were kept clean and dry at all times so that they could be used as a shelter in the event of an outbreak of disease. All crew members were required to become acquainted with the system’s operation. Atmospheric conditions were also monitored on a daily basis using a barometer, thermometer, and hygrometer. Crew members used dry and wet bulb hygrometers to ascertain the dew point of the surrounding air and tested water samples for sulfureted hydrogen—indicating the presence of decaying organic matter.46 Upon entering the Niger, wind sails were raised to a height of fifty feet, the medicators were supplied with fresh chlorine and lime at regular intervals, and the fanners were run continually to provide a supply of fresh air. The effect of this was to noticeably lower humidity levels below deck, although temperatures ranged from 4.5 to 7.5 degrees higher than outside (2.5 to 4 °C) and were seldom lower than 84 degrees Fahrenheit (29 °C).47

  • 48 Ibid., p. 74.
  • 49 Ibid., p. 131-139.
  • 50 Ibid., p. 79-81.
  • 51 Ibid., p. 90.
  • 52 Ibid., p. 94-95.

23One month after the Albert entered the Niger, fever broke out aboard.48 The number of sick grew at an alarming rate, and the fever soon spread to the other ships. Symptoms of the fever included vomiting, difficulty breathing, a weakened pulse, and—in extreme cases—delirium, convulsions, and paralysis.49 By the third week of September, some sixty men were on the sick list and seven had died. At this point, all the sick were loaded onto the Soudan which steamed towards the milder “climate of the open sea,” where medical experts believed the fever’s symptoms would soon subside.50 Aboard the Wilberforce, the chief surgeon charged the fanner with steam to help ventilate the ship and ordered chlorine to be diffused throughout using the medicator. However, stagnant air and high heat continued to plague the expedition, with temperatures reaching 92 degrees Fahrenheit (33 °C) recorded, even in the coolest part of the ship.51 By the time Captain Trotter was seized by fever on October 3rd, only seven Europeans were able-bodied. The decision was made to withdraw from the river, leading the British government to abandon the expedition altogether.52

  • 53 Ibid., p. 128.
  • 54 “Papers Relative to the Expedition to the River Niger,” Parliamentary Papers, London: H.M.S.O., 18 (...)
  • 55 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 401
  • 56 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. ci (...)
  • 57 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 402
  • 58 Edward J. Gillin, “Science on the Niger: Ventilation and Tropical Disease during the 1841 Niger Ex (...)

24The mission’s dramatic failure appeared to validate a racial adaptation thesis within the torrid zone. Of the 145 white officers, seamen, marines, and sappers aboard the expedition, 130 became ill, and of these, 40 died. Conversely, only 11 of the 158 blacks taken aboard the expedition became ill.53 Moreover, most of the “colored” sailors who succumbed to river fever had lived outside of Africa for several years prior to embarking on the mission, leading Captain William Allen to conclude that the “employment of native agency” was essential in establishing European influence on the continent.54 Nor did the mission’s failure dissuade Reid from defending the principles of his ventilating system. In 1844, he complained that his efforts were hampered by a lack of information concerning the chemical qualities of the African atmosphere, including the “precise nature of the evil which proved so fatal in former expeditions.”55 Likewise, in 1843, Scottish epidemiologist James McWilliam, who was senior-surgeon to the expedition, published a medical history where he revealed that deck hatches aboard the Albert were kept open, even while the medicator was in use. This was necessary, he claimed, to alleviate the suffocating heat and lack of fresh air below deck. White crew members were also permitted to sleep above deck at night when temperatures became too oppressive.56 Reid seized on these details to explain the failure of his design, arguing in his Illustrations that the medicator had irrefutably “lessened the oppressive influence” of the African climate.57 He pointed to the fact that the rate of disease was highest aboard the Soudan, a ship whose medicator was proportionally smaller, and whose atmosphere was not medicated to the same degree as that of the other two ships. Other optimistic interpretations of the expedition were advanced by several of Reid’s contemporaries, for whom the ventilation apparatus represented a powerful talisman of rational science and the superiority of Christian civilization.58

  • 59 David B. Reid, Elements of Practical Chemistry, Edinburgh: MacLachlan and Stewart, 1830, p. v-vi; (...)
  • 60 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 209 (...)
  • 61 The Repertory of Patent Inventions, London: T. & G. Underwood, 1827, series 3, vol. 3, p. 420-424; (...)

25Reid’s obstinacy signals both his unwillingness and inability to accept the results of the Niger mission. Accepting the expedition’s empirical evidence threatened not just his reputation but the very epistemological foundation of his science. For Reid, atmospheric chemistry was essential to increasing comforts and the duration of human life.59 He maintained that the medicator was a viable solution for purifying air by applying “gaseous remedies” and using chlorine and nitrous acid to decompose airborne animal and vegetable matter.60 Experiments of this kind were not unprecedented. For example, in recommending the use of nitrous oxide, Reid cited the work of Thomas Beddoes and Humphry Davy, whose own experiments with pneumatic medicine dated to the 1790s. Reid also approved of the controversial efforts by Scottish medical botanist Charles Whitlaw to administer medicated vapor baths in an airtight enclosure using oils extracted from leaves, flowers, roots, and seeds as a remedy—Whitlaw claimed—for rheumatism and other acute diseases (fig. 6).61

Figure 6: Charles Whitlaw, Patent drawing for a medicated vapour bath, 1826.

Figure 6: Charles Whitlaw, Patent drawing for a medicated vapour bath, 1826.

Source: Charles Whitlaw, Specification of Charles Whitlaw: Administering Medicine by the Agency of Steam or Vapour, London: Great Seal Patent Office, 1856.

  • 62 Vladimir Janković, “The Last Resort: A British Perspective on the Medical South, 1815-1870,” Journ (...)
  • 63 Roy Porter, Doctor of Society: Thomas Beddoes and the Sick Trade in Late Enlightenment England, Lo (...)

26Reid also espoused the idea that artificial climates possessed powerful healing properties, echoing one of the cornerstone beliefs of nineteenth-century environmental medicine. Climate therapy was an established medical practice during the early nineteenth century, and medical authorities expressed considerable interest in the ability of artificial climates to replicate the supposed effects of health-inducing geographies located throughout southern Europe. Bathing establishments offering air and vapor treatments promised to reproduce the benefits of popular Mediterranean health retreats, without the expense or inconvenience of travel. Indeed, many physicians opposed resort therapy, based on the belief that travel and tourism would overstimulate and exhaust a delicate patient’s nervous and physical systems.62 The Pneumatic Institute Beddoes founded at Bristol in 1799 was designed, in part, to overcome the drawbacks of medical tourism.63

  • 64 Joseph Adams, “Observations on Pulmonary Consumption,” London Medical and Physical Journal, vol. 5 (...)
  • 65 Dustin Valen, “On the Horticultural Origins of Victorian Glasshouse Culture,” Journal of the Socie (...)
  • 66 Walter Bernan, On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Rooms and Buildings, vol. 1, op.  (...)

27Medical writers increasingly recommended that Britons convalesce in artificial climates instead of traveling to health destinations. In 1801, British physician Joseph Adams published a letter in the London Medical and Physical Journal while stationed in Madeira, extolling the curative powers of the medical south, and speculating that “it may be well worth your while to try whether spacious buildings, regularly heated, safely ventilated, and large enough to admit of necessary exercise, may not answer the purpose for such whose want of means, of courage, or of leisure, prevent their taking a voyage to a more genial climate.”64 By the 1820s, Adams’s hypothesis was being tested by scientific-minded builders who employed the latest glassmaking, heating, and ventilating technologies to relocate healthy climates inside Madeira houses, winter gardens, and other pseudo-medical institutions.65 In 1845, Walter Bernan even hinted at the ability of artificial climates to improve the racial characteristics of northerners by assimilating them to the Mediterranean cradle of civilization.66

  • 67 John Vallance, Observations on Ventilation, London: Baynes and Son, 1821; Vallance based his inven (...)
  • 68 John Vallance, A Letter to the Right Honourable The Earl of Chichester, London: W. Baynes & Son, 1 (...)
  • 69 Ibid., p. 10-11, 32-33.
  • 70 David B. Reid, “Dr. Reid on the Ventilation of the Niger Steam Vessels,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 46

28Reid was also surely aware of the work of John Vallance, a brewer by trade, who obtained a patent in 1820 for artificially warming or cooling the atmosphere using a condensing air pump. Vallance proposed cooling air by placing it under high pressure and passing it through pipes insulated with cold water or ice. He later suggested using this technology to ventilate the Houses of Parliament, promising to supply cool air at exactly 57 degrees Fahrenheit (14 °C) to members of the Houses at a rate of 1,000 gallons per minute.67 However, Vallance’s interests quickly grew to encompass the whole of the British Empire. In a letter to the Earl of Chichester, he explained how his invention could be used to prevent European fatalities abroad by cooling tropical climates “to any degree of cold we had the means of producing, at whatever rate we pleased,” creating “an artificial in-doors winter, even under the equator.”68 In particular, Vallance believed his condensing pump was ideally suited for use in military buildings and hospitals located throughout the torrid zone where, by combining it with “anti-contagious gases,” such as chlorine and nitrous acid, artificial climates would deliver “our species from the effects of those dreadful scourges, plague and yellow fever.”69 Similarly, in his design for the Houses of Parliament, Reid attempted to cool incoming air by passing it through a series of chilled pipes, and to produce a cooling sensation by passing a constant stream of air over the skin of House members. Reid’s ventilation system aboard the Niger ships also allowed for a modest amount of cooling when water temperatures permitted by directing air into the ships’ holds, where it came into contact with the iron bottoms of the boats, or by supplying air through tubes located in the paddle boxes, where the agitation of the water would have a cooling effect.70

Figure 7: Joseph Paxton, Interior of the London Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, 1851.

Figure 7: Joseph Paxton, Interior of the London Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, 1851.

Source: John Tallis, Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace, and the Exhibition of the World’s Industry in 1851, London: [1852], vol. 1, n.p.

  • 71 Henrik Schoenefeldt, “The Crystal Palace, Environmentally Considered,” Architectural Research Quar (...)
  • 72 R. G. Latham and Edward Forbes, The Natural History Department of the Crystal Palace Described, Lo (...)

29During the same years, the ability of artificial climates to facilitate encounters between Victorians and the tropics acquired new authority through a series of large, public glasshouses that employed complex, mechanically-aided climate control systems, and in which the torrid zone was literally and metaphorically present. Joseph Paxton’s Crystal Palace of 1851, for example, contained exhibits of African goods and people, while fountains and vegetation placed along the building’s transept—nicknamed the Equator—evoked tropical geographies (fig. 7). The building was also an exhibition of the latest ventilating principles, although in this case there was no need to purify the air on account of the Crystal Palace’s suburban setting in Hyde Park. Although visitors often experienced sweltering heat inside the glass and iron structure, the building was nonetheless hailed by medical authorities as evidence of a new sanitary architecture.71 The Sydenham Crystal Palace went one step further. The building was used as a sanatorium by convalescents who quested after recuperative climates and contained a section on ethnography where visitors could dine at refreshment tables surrounded by wooden anthropological figures, including Africans from the lower Niger (fig. 8).72 Reid’s approach aboard the Niger mission represents an attempt to apply these principles in reverse. By exporting temperate, European climates abroad, his theory and practice epitomized the belief that British bodies could be safely inserted into the tropics, protected by the technological and cultural apparatus of the artificial atmosphere.

Figure 8: Crystal Palace—Some Varieties of the Human Race.

Figure 8: Crystal Palace—Some Varieties of the Human Race.

Source: Punch, or the London Charivari, vol. 28 (London), 1855, n.p.

Conclusion

  • 73 László Máthé-Shires, “Imperial Nightmares: The British Image of ‘the Deadly Climate’ of West Afric (...)

30The detachment of climate from disease unfolded gradually over the second half of the nineteenth century. Tropical medicine, in particular, underwent significant changes as the effectiveness of quinine at preventing African fevers was recognized following two successful expeditions to the Niger River in 1854 and 1857. This marked the beginning of a shift towards preventive medicine in the tropics, facilitating Europeans’ conquest of the African continent, and leading to the discovery of malarial parasites in red blood cells in 1879 by French army doctor Charles Laveran.73 Nevertheless, Reid’s failure to bring Victorian medicine to bear on the tropics and his subsequent rejection of the Niger mission’s results anticipates the degree to which early nineteenth-century climate science would continue to haunt ventilating theory and its practices.

  • 74 For a preliminary discussion on the relevance of ships to urban and architectural history, see Lou (...)
  • 75 See Dane Kennedy, “The Perils of the Midday Sun: Climatic Anxieties in the Colonial Tropics,” op.  (...)

31Climate and health were inextricable in building treatises throughout the nineteenth century and remained a preoccupation for many early-twentieth century practitioners. Similarly, efforts to provide mechanical ventilation aboard ships would not be revised until after World War I, when the advent of new air-conditioning technologies greatly simplified merchants’ ability to deliver perishable commodities from regions like the West Indies to European and North American markets—a development coinciding with the incorporation of mechanical air-conditioning in buildings around the world, and that underlines the importance of ships in shaping terrestrial social, economic, and technological spaces.74 Likewise, although the collapse of the Niger mission highlighted the inadequacy of certain Victorian scientific theories to its contemporaries, aspects of the mission were nonetheless influential in shaping British colonial policy within the tropics. Many aspects of the dress code implemented aboard the mission, for example, reappeared as standard issue clothing for settlers and soldiers stationed throughout the torrid zone, while limitations imposed on the diurnal activities of British crew members would become a staple feature of colonial representations in the tropics throughout the latter half of the nineteenth century.75

  • 76 Christopher Cowell, “The Hong Kong Fever of 1843: Collective Trauma and the Reconfiguring of Colon (...)

32At the same time, the Niger mission highlights how understudied connections exist between artificial climates and deterministic theories in which the environment served as a key index for measuring animal, vegetable, and human progress. By separating, containing, and controlling the natural world, climate control aboard the expedition reinforced a colonial order of things and asserted architects’ and engineers’ place in a rapidly expanding colonial bureaucracy. It underlines how Western notions of thermal comfort were shaped by scientific and social experimentation beyond the British metropole, as well as climate control’s incipient role in preserving European hegemony in the tropics through the strategic reconfiguration of its architectural and urban spaces.76 Moreover, the Niger mission shows how nineteenth-century building technologies rendered climates mobile at a critical moment when imperial nations were struggling to expand their geographical footprint in the equatorial tropics. Notwithstanding its challenges, the expedition recapitulated the desire to create segregated spaces in the tropics and showed how artificial climates could further imperial interests by transforming the air itself into a prophylactic against disease and other, race-based transgressions.

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Notes

1 See, for example, Reyner Banham, The Architecture of the Well-Tempered Environment, London: Architectural Press; Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1969; Robert Bruegmann, “Central Heating and Forced Ventilation: Origins and Effects on Architectural Design,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 37, no. 3, 1978, p. 143-160. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/989206; Dean Hawkes, Architecture and Climate: An Environmental History of British Architecture, 1600-2000, London; New York, NY: Routledge, 2012.

2 For an overview of Victorian environmental medicine and its climatic concerns, see Vladimir Janković, Confronting the Climate: British Airs and the Making of Environmental Medicine, New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010 (Palgrave Studies in the History of Science and Technology).

3 Brenda S. A. Yeoh, Contesting Space in Colonial Singapore: Power Relations and the Urban Built Environment, Singapore: National University of Singapore Press, 2003 (Singapore: Studies in Society & History); Jyoti Hosagrahar, “Symbolic Terrains of Housing in Delhi,” in Peter Scriver and Vikramaditya Prakash (eds.), Colonial Modernities: Building, Dwelling and Architecture in British India and Ceylon, London; New York, NY: Routledge, 2007, p. 219-240 (The Architext Series); Jiat-Hwee Chang, A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture: Colonial Networks, Nature and Technoscience, Abingdon; New York, NY: Routledge, 2016 (The Architext Series); Daniel J. Ryan, Setting the Thermal Frontier: The Tropical House in Northern Queensland from Federation to the Second World War, Ph.D. diss., University of Sydney, Sydney, 2017.

4 See, for example, James Clark, The Influence of Climate in the Prevention and Cure of Chronic Diseases, London: Thomas and George Underwood, 1829; Andrew Combe, The Principles of Physiology Applied to the Preservation of Human Health, New York, NY: Harper & Brothers, 1834.

5 Mark Harrison, Climates and Constitutions: Health, Race, Environment and British Imperialism in India, 1600-1850, New Delhi; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999 (Oxford India Paperbacks); Roxann Wheeler, The Complexion of Race: Categories of Difference in Eighteenth-Century British Culture, Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000 (New Cultural Studies).

6 David Livingstone, “Human Acclimatization: Perspectives on a Contested Field of Enquiry in Science, Medicine, and Geography,” History of Science, vol. 25, 1987, p. 359-394. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1177/007327538702500402; Warwick Anderson, “Climates of Opinion: Acclimatization in Nineteenth-Century France and England,” Victorian Studies, vol. 35, no. 2, 1992, p. 135-157.

7 See Philip D. Curtin, Death by Migration: Europe’s Encounter with the Tropical World in the Nineteenth Century, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989; David Arnold, The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture and European Expansion, Oxford: Blackwell, 1996, p. 141-168.

8 For an account of the Niger expedition, including its underlying Christian civilizing impulse, see Howard Temperley, White Dreams, Black Africa: The Antislavery Expedition to the River Niger 1841-1842, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1991.

9 Lander was spared from the effects of the African climate by local inhabitants who shot and killed him instead. Christopher Lloyd, The Search for the Niger, London: William Collins Sons & Co., 1973, p. 126-145.

10 Edward J. Gillin, “Science on the Niger: Ventilation and Tropical Disease during the 1841 Niger Expedition,” Social History of Medicine, vol. 31, no. 3, 2018, p. 605-626.

11 Ann Laura Stoler, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2010, p. 3.

12 Ken Alder, Engineering the Revolution: Arms and Enlightenment in France, 1763-1815, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1997, p. 12.

13 See David Arnold (ed.), Warm Climates and Western Medicine: The Emergence of Tropical Medicine, 1500-1900, Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1996 (The Wellcome Institute Serie in the History of Medicine); Mark Harrison, Medicine in an Age of Commerce and Empire: Britain and its Tropical Colonies, New York, NY; Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2010.

14 John F. Daniell, “Report of Professor Daniell on the Waters of the African Rivers,” The Nautical Magazine and Naval Chronicle, London: Simpkin, Marshall, and Co., vol. 10, 1841, p. 20-29.

15 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2. Comprising an Account of the Fever which led to its Abrupt Termination, London: John Churchill, 1843, p. 4. URL: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5098291/. Accessed 17 June 2020.

16 Ibid., p. 23.

17 “Niger Expedition,” The Friend of Africa, vol. 1, no. 1, 1841, p. 10-11.

18 William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, A Narrative of the Expedition Sent by Her Majesty’s Government to the River Niger in 1841, London: Richard Bentley, vol. 1, 1848, p. 11, 39. URL: https://www.biodiversitylibrary.org/item/216020#page/1/mode/1up. Accessed 17 June 2020.

19 Ibid., p. 6.

20 Henrik Schoenefeldt, “The Temporary Houses of Parliament and David Boswell Reid’s Architecture of Experimentation,” Architectural History, vol. 57, 2014, p. 175-215; DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0066622X00001416; Reid’s design for the new Palace of Westminster, destroyed by fire in 1834, was based on similar principles. Fresh air was supplied to the House of Lords and House of Commons using a fan driven plenum and exhausted through several ventilating towers using the stack-effect principle. Restricting air infiltration to a minimum number of inlets was crucial in order to manage local air pollution. See Denis Smith, “The Building Services,” in M. H. Port (ed.), The Houses of Parliament, New Haven, CT: Paul Mellon Centre for Studies in British Art; Yale University Press, 1976 (Studies in British Art), p. 218-231.

21 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1844, p. 216-217.

22 Southwood Smith, A Treatise on Fever, London: Longman, Rees, Orme, Brown, & Green, 1830, p. 364.

23 Reid employed similar, empirical methodologies to monitor the physiological and psychological comfort of Members of Parliament at Westminster, using thermometers and hygrometers placed throughout the buildings to gather quantitative data, and interviewing Members of Parliament and House staff. Henrik Schoenefeldt, “Powers of Politics, Scientific Measurement and Perception: Evaluating the Performance of the Houses of Commons’ First Environmental System,” in Edward Gillin and H. Horatio Joyce (eds), Experiencing Architecture in the Nineteenth Century, London: Bloomsbury, 2019, p. 115-129.

24 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 215-220.

25 The Morning Post (London), March 22, 1841.

26 For a description of the ventilation system, see David B. Reid, “Dr. Reid of the Ventilation of the Niger Steam Vessels,” The Friend of Africa, vol. 1, no. 3/5, 1841, p. 43-47, 65-73.

27 Aris’s Birmingham Gazette, March 24, 1841, p. 1.

28 Reid also designed a system of ventilation for the Minden, a hospital ship used to transport wounded British soldiers during the Anglo-Chinese war fought from 1839-1842, as well as aboard the Royal George, a yacht used by Queen Victoria during a visitation to Scotland in 1842. David B. Reid and Elisha Harris, Ventilation in American Dwellings, New York, NY: Wiley & Halsted, 1858, p. xxxv. URL: https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/bookviewer?PID=nlm:nlmuid-63220200R-bk#page/3/mode/1up. Accessed 17 June 2020.

29 William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, A Narrative of the Expedition Sent by Her Majesty’s Government to the River Niger in 1841, op. cit. (note 18), p. 29, 32.

30 James McWilliam, for example, noted how “experiments were frequently made to ascertain the power of the ventilating apparatus, to the admiration of all who witnessed them, among whom were many individuals distinguished in science.” He claimed that thousands of people came aboard to study the ships while at Deptford and Woolwich. James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. cit. (note 15), p. 5.

31 Monogenism was not without its detractors. Polygenists, for example, defied biblical wisdom by arguing that the different races were an array of unique species. Consensus was elusive, however, and divergent theorists continued to espouse the belief that human progress was susceptible to environmental conditions. For an overview of this debate, see Nancy Stepan, The Idea of Race in Science: Great Britain, 1800-1960, Hamden, CT: Archon Books, 1982, p. 29-46; David N. Livingstone, Adam’s Ancestors: Race, Religion, and the Politics of Human Origins, Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008 (Medicine, science, and religion in historical context), p. 109-136.

32 Rebecca Preston, “‘The Scenery of the Torrid Zone’: Imagined Travels and the Culture of Exotics in Nineteenth-Century British Gardens,” in Felix Driver and David Gilbert (eds.), Imperial Cities: Landscape, Display and Identity, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1999, p. 197 (Studies in Imperialism).

33 Neil Arnott, On Warming and Ventilating, London: Longman, Orme, Brown, Green, and Longmans, 1838 (The Making of the Modern World), p. 10.

34 Ibid., p. 11-12.

35 Walter Bernan, On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Rooms and Buildings by Open Fires, Hypocausts, German, Duch, Russian, and Swedish Stoves, Steam, Hot Water, Heated Air, Heat of Animals, and Other Methods; with Notices of the Progress of Personal and Fireside Comfort, and of the Management of Fuel, London: George Bell, 1845, vol. 1, p. 1.

36 David B. Reid, “On the ‘Progress of Architecture in Relation to Ventilation, Warming, Lighting, Fire-proofing, Acoustics, and the General Preservation of Health,” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, D.C.: A. O. P. Nicholson, Printer, 1857, p. 147. URL: https://collections.nlm.nih.gov/bookviewer?PID=nlm:nlmuid-101214988-bk#page/1/mode/2up. Accessed 17 June 2020.

37 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 401.

38 Dane Kennedy, “The Perils of the Midday Sun: Climatic Anxieties in the Colonial Tropics,” in John M. Mackenzie (ed.), Imperialism and the Natural World, Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1990 (Studies in Imperialism), p. 118-140; David N. Livingstone, “Tropical Climate and Moral Hygiene: The Anatomy of a Victorian Debate,” British Journal for the History of Science, vol. 32, no. 1, 1999, p. 93-110.

39 David B. Reid, “Dr. Reid of the Ventilation of the Niger Steam Vessels,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 43-47, 65-73.

40 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. cit. (note 15), p. 45.

41 Sailors were, however, permitted to drink water from the Niger, provided they boiled it and purified it with lime. Ibid., p. 16-20.

42 Anya Zilberstein, A Temperate Empire: Making Climate Change in Early America, New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2016, p. 151.

43 Suzanne Zeller, “Environment, Culture, and the Reception of Darwin in Canada, 1859-1909,” in Ronald L. Numbers and John Stenhouse (eds.), Disseminating Darwinism: The Role of Place, Race, Religion, and Gender, Cambridge; New York, NY: Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 91-122.

44 James Johnson and James Ranald Martin, The Influences of Tropical Climates on European Constitutions, [6th edition], London: S. Highley, 1841, p. 34-35.

45 William Allen and T. R. H. Thompson, A Narrative of the Expedition Sent by Her Majesty’s Government to the River Niger in 1841, op. cit. (note 18), p. 38.

46 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. cit. (note 15), p. 164, 269-284.

47 These differences were measured aboard the Albert from August 20-25, not long after the ship entered the Niger. Ibid., p. 178, 265-267.

48 Ibid., p. 74.

49 Ibid., p. 131-139.

50 Ibid., p. 79-81.

51 Ibid., p. 90.

52 Ibid., p. 94-95.

53 Ibid., p. 128.

54 “Papers Relative to the Expedition to the River Niger,” Parliamentary Papers, London: H.M.S.O., 1843, vol. 48, p. 138

55 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 401.

56 James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, op. cit. (note 15), p. 267-268.

57 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 402.

58 Edward J. Gillin, “Science on the Niger: Ventilation and Tropical Disease during the 1841 Niger Expedition,” op. cit. (note 10), p. 622-625.

59 David B. Reid, Elements of Practical Chemistry, Edinburgh: MacLachlan and Stewart, 1830, p. v-vi; David B. Reid, Rudiments of Chemistry, Edinburgh: William and Robert Chambers, 1836, p. 3-4.

60 David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, op. cit. (note 21), p. 209-220.

61 The Repertory of Patent Inventions, London: T. & G. Underwood, 1827, series 3, vol. 3, p. 420-424; Whitlaw became a controversial figure within the medical community when he claimed that cancer and scrofula could be cured using his patented vapor bath, drawing the ire of several physicians. He later claimed to have treated some sixty thousand patients by this method. Charles E. Nelson, “Charles Whitlaw (né Whitly) (1771-1850): Botanist, Horticulturist, Charlatan and Quack,” Archives of Natural History, vol. 40, no. 1, 2013, p. 94-110.

62 Vladimir Janković, “The Last Resort: A British Perspective on the Medical South, 1815-1870,” Journal of Intercultural Studies, vol. 27, no. 3, 2006, p. 279-298.

63 Roy Porter, Doctor of Society: Thomas Beddoes and the Sick Trade in Late Enlightenment England, London: Routledge, 1992 (The Wellcome Institute Series in the History of Medicine), p. 119-139.

64 Joseph Adams, “Observations on Pulmonary Consumption,” London Medical and Physical Journal, vol. 5, no. 26, 1801, p. 311.

65 Dustin Valen, “On the Horticultural Origins of Victorian Glasshouse Culture,” Journal of the Society of Architectural Historians, vol. 75, no. 4, 2016, p. 403-423.

66 Walter Bernan, On the History and Art of Warming and Ventilating Rooms and Buildings, vol. 1, op. cit. (note 35), p. 21-22.

67 John Vallance, Observations on Ventilation, London: Baynes and Son, 1821; Vallance based his invention on the work of Scottish physicist John Leslie who calculated that air condensed thirty times would lose roughly half its heat, see John Leslie, “On the Relations of Air to Heat, Cold, and Moisture, and the Means of Ascertaining their Reciprocal Action,” The Philosophical Magazine, vol. 41, no. 182, London: Printed by Richard Taylor and Co., 1813, p. 446-457; in 1824, Vallance developed his own method for producing cool air and ice using a vacuum sulphuric acid evaporation system, see W. R. Woolrich, The Men Who Created Cold: A History of Refrigeration, New York, NY: Exposition Press, 1967, p. 153.

68 John Vallance, A Letter to the Right Honourable The Earl of Chichester, London: W. Baynes & Son, 1823, p. 14-15.

69 Ibid., p. 10-11, 32-33.

70 David B. Reid, “Dr. Reid on the Ventilation of the Niger Steam Vessels,” op. cit. (note 26), p. 46.

71 Henrik Schoenefeldt, “The Crystal Palace, Environmentally Considered,” Architectural Research Quarterly, vol. 12, no. 3/4, 2008, p. 283-294; “The Crystal Palace: A Hint for Hospital Authorities,” The Lancet, series X, vol. 1, no. 1438, London: George Churchill, 1851, p. 339-340.

72 R. G. Latham and Edward Forbes, The Natural History Department of the Crystal Palace Described, London: Crystal Palace Library, 1854, p. 39-54; Jan Piggott, The Palace and the People, London: C. Hurst, 2004, p. 59; Stephen Ward, Healthy Respiration, London: John Van Voorst, 1855, p. 89.

73 László Máthé-Shires, “Imperial Nightmares: The British Image of ‘the Deadly Climate’ of West Africa, C. 1840-74,” European Review of History: Revue européenne d'histoire, vol. 8, no. 2, 2001, p. 137-156.

74 For a preliminary discussion on the relevance of ships to urban and architectural history, see Louis P. Nelson, Architecture and Empire in Jamaica, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2016, p. 10-35; G. A. Bremner, “Tides That Bind: Waterborne Trade and the Infrastructural Networks of Jardine, Matheson & Co.,” Perspecta, vol. 52, 2019, p. 31-47.

75 See Dane Kennedy, “The Perils of the Midday Sun: Climatic Anxieties in the Colonial Tropics,” op. cit. (note 38), p. 118-140.

76 Christopher Cowell, “The Hong Kong Fever of 1843: Collective Trauma and the Reconfiguring of Colonial Space,” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 47, no. 2, 2013, p. 329-364. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/S0026749X12000418; this was especially true after the Crimean War (1853-1856), which led to a complete reconfiguration of British military and hospital architecture at home and abroad, see Cynthia Hammond, “Reforming Architecture, Defending Empire: Florence Nightingale and the Pavilion Hospital,” Studies in the Social Sciences, vol. 37, no. 1, 2005, p. 1-24; Jiat-Hwee Chang, A Genealogy of Tropical Architecture, op. cit. (note 3), p. 51-128.

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Table des illustrations

Titre Figure 1: Samuel Walters, The Niger Expedition... off Holyhead... August-October 1841, HMS ‘Albert’, ‘Sudan’ and ‘Wilberforce’, 1841.
Crédits Source: London (United Kingdom), Greenwich, National Maritime Museum.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-1.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 90k
Titre Figure 2: View on the Niger River.
Crédits Source: William Allen, Picturesque Views on the River Niger, Sketches during Lander’s Last Visit in 1832-33, London: John Murray, 1849, facing p. 9.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-2.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 220k
Titre Figure 3: Interior view of the Temporary House of Commons, ca. 1836.
Crédits Source: Arnold Wright and Philip Smith, Parliament Past and Present, London: Hutchinson & Co., 1902, p. 381.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-3.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 218k
Titre Figure 4: Plan of ventilation scheme aboard the three Niger ships.
Crédits Source: James O. McWilliam, Medical History of the Expedition to the Niger During the Years 1841-2, London: John Churchill, 1843, p. 255.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-4.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 92k
Titre Figure 5: The Medicator.
Crédits Source: David B. Reid, Illustrations of the Theory and Practice of Ventilation, London: Longman, Brown, Green, & Longmans, 1844, p. 407.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-5.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 115k
Titre Figure 6: Charles Whitlaw, Patent drawing for a medicated vapour bath, 1826.
Crédits Source: Charles Whitlaw, Specification of Charles Whitlaw: Administering Medicine by the Agency of Steam or Vapour, London: Great Seal Patent Office, 1856.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-6.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 129k
Titre Figure 7: Joseph Paxton, Interior of the London Crystal Palace in Hyde Park, 1851.
Crédits Source: John Tallis, Tallis’s History and Description of the Crystal Palace, and the Exhibition of the World’s Industry in 1851, London: [1852], vol. 1, n.p.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-7.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 320k
Titre Figure 8: Crystal Palace—Some Varieties of the Human Race.
Crédits Source: Punch, or the London Charivari, vol. 28 (London), 1855, n.p.
URL http://journals.openedition.org/abe/docannexe/image/8106/img-8.jpg
Fichier image/jpeg, 227k
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Dustin Valen, « Imperial Atmospheres: Race and Climate Control on the Niger »ABE Journal [En ligne], 17 | 2020, mis en ligne le 09 décembre 2020, consulté le 23 janvier 2021. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/abe/8106 ; DOI : https://doi.org/10.4000/abe.8106

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Auteur

Dustin Valen

Department of History, Concordia University, Montreal, Canada

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La revue ABE Journal est mise à disposition selon les termes de la Licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

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