This article examines scientific developments in China and India by comparing and contrasting the enterprises of natural history during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. From this perspective, the cases of China and India shared some similarities, but also exhibited important differences with respect to the conditions, ideologies, personnel, processes and strategies in scientific development. Two very large countries, with much left unexplored, attracted broad scientific interest in their flora and fauna from the early modern period; the interest intensified in the nineteenth century because of increasing accessibility to their interiors. However, the different historical situations that involved empire, nation, professionalization, geography and domestic and international politics helped shape the respective trajectories of scientific development in the two countries. Yet, despite their differences, China and India shared important similarities in the co-production of science and state, the global hierarchy of knowledge production, and the coloniality of power relations. This historical complexity also represented an important aspect of the global history of science, one that still bears poignancy and resonance in the contemporary world.
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