Theses Doctoral

Expanding Educational Empires: The USA, Great Britain, and British Africa, circa 1902-1944

Dunitz, Sarah Claire

“Expanding Educational Empires” explores the interventions of American philanthropic foundations in educational programs for British Africa after the First World War. It reveals the extent to which a discourse of education – pedagogy and research – allowed American philanthropic groups, and the numerous governmental and nongovernmental organizations with which they cooperated, to shape the interwar British Empire, and institutionalize a colonial ideology that aligned with American corporate and cultural interests. American philanthropists portrayed these interwar colonial activities as benevolent, apolitical enterprises, glossing over the fact that their influence over the overlapping agencies with which they cooperated filtered easily into official organs of power.
By the 1940s, when the Anglo-American partnership no longer served the interests of American-based global capital, American philanthropists performed an effortless volte-face against a mercantilist British Empire. They now found it expedient to invoke both their nation’s ingrained hostility to colonialism and their expertise in native affairs, which had been attained primarily through support of interwar British imperialism, as justification for meddling in the postwar international arena, using education to construct a global community committed to corporate American preferences.
This project investigates the close collaboration between American and British agents in the formulation of interwar colonial education, exposing it as a comprehensive program that entailed accumulating knowledge about British territories, particularly in Africa, and disseminating the findings worldwide, thereby establishing new ideological and economic international assumptions. It reveals that American interference in this ambitious project constituted an extension of the longstanding domestic state-building endeavors of early-twentieth-century American philanthropic foundation managers, and their partners. The “unofficial”, humanitarian framework of education allowed a web of American agents to smoothly and remarkably embed themselves in a foreign government’s operations with the ulterior motive of powering American international influence, a story that has significant implications today.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Thesis Advisors
Kessler-Harris, Alice
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
September 14, 2017