When we think of nineteenth-century imperial technology, Roman ruins don’t usually come to mind. In French North Africa, however, the study of Roman imperial technologies and the rehabilitation of Roman hydraulic works played an important role in advancing French settlement. Scholars have long viewed technology as an important agent of imperialism, emphasizing the role that “superior” technologies played in facilitating European conquest. The history of Roman-turned-French hydraulic technology, however, tells another story: one in which the French self-consciously turned to the ancient past for technical guidance, often after the failure of more modern efforts. This talk explores how the French repurposed the remains of the Roman empire in late nineteenth-century Algeria and Tunisia, and reveals some of the ancient roots of modern empire.
This event will also be streamed live to our Chicago campus. Registration is not required for the streaming event.
Jessica Biddlestone Jessica Biddlestone is a doctoral candidate in history at Northwestern University and a T.H. Breen Fellow at the Nicholas D. Chabraja Center for Historical Studies. Her dissertation, “France in Roman Africa: Antiquity and the Making of Empire in French Algeria and Tunisia,” explores how the French studied and used Roman ruins in their efforts to develop colonies in North Africa.