Over The Dutch quinine monopoly and colonial rivalry: contemporary traces in Tanzania

The Dutch quinine monopoly and colonial rivalry: contemporary traces in Tanzania

Avondlezing door Rene Gerrets (Universiteit van Amsterdam), georganiseerd door de Haarlemse Chemische Kring. 

This talk examines a little-known aspect of Dutch colonial history, specifically efforts by other colonial powers to dislodge the profitable monopoly quinine – the principal treatment for malaria prior to World War II, then a medicine of huge strategic importance. The story begins with contemporary remnants of cinchona plantations on Northern Tanzania, traces of German and then British colonial ambitions aimed at reducing the dependence of their respective empires on quinine produced in the Netherlands Indies. It traces how British authorities equivocated about the unexpected asset their conquest of German East Africa yielded – cinchona plantations whose productivity exceeded those of the Netherlands Indies, potentially presenting a threat to the Dutch quinine monopoly. However, the tantalizing expectation of synthetic antimalarials effectively fueled inaction by British colonial authorities, and spelled disaster for the Empire after the Japanese conquest of the Netherlands Indies, which gave Axis powers control of the global supply of quinine.

Curriculum vitae
Rene Gerrets is assistant professor at the University of Amsterdam, Department of Anthropology, and senior researcher at the Amsterdam Institute for Global Health and Development. Gerrets earned a PhD in social anthropology at New York University. Building on his doctoral thesis, which investigated the rise of 'partnership' as a dominant ideology and organizational model in the domain of global health, Gerrets’ research focuses on malaria to investigate the role of science in health governance. From 2011-2015, Gerrets investigated the memories and legacies of colonial-era agricultural and biomedical research in northern Tanzania. Gerrets' new project, funded by the Wellcome Trust, will explore ‘fake-talk’, trust and mistrust involving medicines in East Africa.

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