Erik Linstrum is Assistant Professor of History at the University of Virginia.
Challenging one-dimensional accounts that stress the unapologetic
complicity of psychologists in the project of empire, he excels in
unpicking the complexity and contradictions that bedeviled the
encounter between science and colonial rule...Linstrum's deeply
researched volume also contains a warning as pertinent now as it
was in the age of pith helmets-that whatever the intentions of the
researcher, and however much they qualify their conclusions,
officials are often willing to co-opt knowledge to their own ends.
-- Duncan Bell * Times Literary Supplement *
Ruling Minds takes the reader through the largely forgotten history of how Great Britain tried to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of its empire through the new 'mind sciences,' a broad category that included personality and intelligence testing as well as the theories of Jung and Freud. From Uganda to India to Burma, government bureaucrats, academics, missionaries, and anthropologists used tests like Porteus's [maze] to try to research, rationalize, and control the empire. -- Jack Meserve * New York Magazine *
This book offers a compelling examination of the intersections between psychology, empire, and modernity. Linstrum deftly illuminates the ways in which psychology was harnessed and deployed in the making and remaking of imperial modernities, and this analytical concern allows him to press against the often narrow focus on the production of cultural difference that has characterized most recent scholarship on the history of colonial knowledge and empire building. There is no doubt that this is a sophisticated and significant work. -- Tony Ballantyne, author of Entanglements of Empire
Linstrum's deft and fascinating study of imperial psychology reveals the ever-present tension between the radical possibilities of psychology and the requirements of the colonial state. In seeking to reconcile human diversity with a universalist model of the mind, psychologists ran up against the assumptions and prejudices that fed imperial rule, as well as the needs of colonial regimes. This is a groundbreaking work of considerable depth, that speaks as much to contemporary concerns as it does to the history of the British Empire. A tour de force. -- Philippa Levine, author of The British Empire: Sunrise to Sunset
A tough and sophisticated account of how the 'science of mind' was deployed in the British Empire in surprising ways-to shore up empire, to critique it, to modernize it. Linstrum's own psychological acumen is applied to the personnel, instruments, and subjects of imperial psychology to reveal the multiple potentials-but also, ultimately, the frailty-of expertise in the global power politics of the twentieth century. -- Peter Mandler, author of Return from the Natives
Linstrum has written a rich, captivating, and well-researched study of how British authorities used psychology as a global system of knowledge and practice informing, bolstering, and, conversely, undermining the political projects of British imperialism in the 20th century...This reviewer has difficulty imaging a future history of modernist psychology that will be the equal of Linstrum's impressive foundational study. An indispensable read for anyone interested in history, psychology, and political science-particularly their intersection. -- M. Uebel * Choice *
Wide-ranging, evenhanded, and very well written...Linstrum's book marks a significant revision in our understanding of his subject. He carries this out with such sensitivity and aplomb that it sometimes takes a moment of reflection and a flick to the literature cited in his notes to reveal just how powerful and, possibly controversial, an intervention he is making. -- Freddy Foks * Journal of the History of the Behavioral Sciences *
This is an excellent book: smart, elegantly written, well researched and ambitious in scope. -- Mathew Thomson * British Journal of the History of Science *
Linstrum argues that rather than providing answers and
resolution, psychology's enormous and ambiguous promise bought it a
consistent place in the British colonial world, even as individuals
and their research exposed unexpected conclusions and challenges to
existing thinking. Across changing circumstances, this book
consistent but contradictory discourse underlying the late British Empire.