Hostname: page-component-5d59c44645-l48q4 Total loading time: 0 Render date: 2024-02-22T13:41:16.478Z Has data issue: false hasContentIssue false


Published online by Cambridge University Press:  15 July 2016

University of Cambridge
Darwin College, University of Cambridge, Silver Street, Cambridge, cb3


Like many nineteenth-century sciences, phrenology had global aspirations. Skulls were collected in Egypt and Ceylon, societies exchanged journals between India and the United States, and phrenological bestsellers were sold in Shanghai and Tokyo. Despite this wealth of interaction, existing accounts treat phrenology within neat national and urban settings. In contrast, this article examines phrenology as a global political project. During an age in which character dominated public discourse, phrenology emerged as a powerful political language. In this article, I examine the role that correspondence played in establishing material connections between phrenologists and their political concerns, ranging from the abolition of slavery to the reform of prison discipline. Two overarching arguments run throughout my case-studies. First, phrenologists used correspondence to establish reform as a global project. Second, phrenology allowed reformers to present their arguments in terms of a new understanding of human character. More broadly, this article connects political thought with the global history of science.

Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2016 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)



Janet Browne, Simon Schaffer, Jim Secord, Sujit Sivasundaram, Alice Poskett, and three anonymous referees all provided invaluable feedback on earlier drafts of this article. I would like to thank the Master and Fellows of both Trinity College and Darwin College at the University of Cambridge for supporting my research, first under the Tarner Studentship and then as the Adrian Research Fellow. The British Society for the History of Science and the Countway Library of Medicine at Harvard University provided additional funding for archival work in Scotland and the United States respectively, for which I am most grateful.


1 Fowler, O., ‘Cheap postage and friendly correspondence’, American Phrenological Journal , 10 (1848), p. 27 Google Scholar. On the campaign and development of the penny post in the United States, see F. Staff, The penny post, 1680–1918 (London, 1964), pp. 96–104.

2 Fowler, O., ‘Excellent post-office suggestion’, American Phrenological Journal , 11 (1849), pp. 36–8Google Scholar.

3 Watson, H., ‘Cheap postage’, Phrenological Journal , 11 (1838), p. 72 Google Scholar.

4 F. Bridges, Phrenology made practical and popularly explained (London, 1857), pp. 160–1.

5 On the move towards global histories of science, see Sivasundaram, S., ‘Sciences and the global: on methods, questions, and theory’, Isis , 101 (2010), pp. 146–58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

6 Wyhe, J. van, ‘The authority of human nature: the Schädellehre of Franz Joseph Gall’, British Journal for the History of Science , 35 (2002), pp. 1742 Google Scholar.

7 For the history of The constitution of man in Britain, see J. Secord, Visions of science: books and readers at the dawn of the Victorian age (Oxford, 2014), pp. 173–204; and J. van Wyhe, Phrenology and the origins of Victorian scientific naturalism (Aldershot, 2004), pp. 96–164.

8 The constitution of man sold well over 300,000 copies by 1900. On the origin of species only managed 50,000, R. Cooter, The cultural meaning of popular science (Cambridge, 1984), p. 120.

9 R. Das, Manatatwa sarsangraha (Calcutta, 1849); N. Hideki, Seisogaku genron (Tokyo, 1918); and P. Feng, Gu xiang xue (Shanghai, 1923). Van Wyhe, Phrenology, pp. 217–28, lists editions in European languages including French, German, and Swedish.

10 Much of this work follows Shapin, S., ‘Phrenological knowledge and the social structure of early nineteenth-century Edinburgh’, Annals of Science , 32 (1975), pp. 219–43CrossRefGoogle Scholar. For France, see M. Renneville, Le langage des crânes (Paris, 2000).

11 For the growing body of work on the global history of reform and revolution, see D. Armitage and S. Subrahmanyam, eds., The age of revolutions in global context, 1760–1840 (Basingstoke, 2010); C. Bayly, The birth of the modern world, 1780–1914: global connections and comparisons (Oxford, 2004); and T. Popkewitz, Rethinking the history of education: transnational perspectives on its questions, methods, and knowledge (Basingstoke, 2013).

12 For the history of the material mind in this period, see R. Young, Mind, brain and adaptation in the nineteenth century (Oxford, 1970); R. Smith, The Fontana history of the human sciences (London, 1997), pp. 407–20; and Jacyna, L., ‘The physiology of mind, the unity of nature, and the moral order in Victorian thought’, British Journal for the History of Science , 14 (1981), pp. 109–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

13 Combe, G., ‘Answer to Mr Stone's observations’, Phrenological Journal , 6 (1829–30), pp. 114 Google Scholar, at pp. 13–14.

14 Paterson to Combe, [May 1823], MS7211, fo. 9, George Combe papers, National Library of Scotland, UK (henceforth ‘Combe papers’).

15 Eley, G., ‘Historicizing the global, politicizing capital: giving the present a name’, History Workshop Journal , 63 (2007), pp. 154–88CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and S. Moyn and A. Sartori, ‘Approaches to global intellectual history’, in S. Moyn and A. Sartori, eds., Global intellectual history (New York, NY, 2013), p. 5.

16 For a good cross-section of these debates, see the essays collected together in the special issue of History Workshop Journal, introduced by Driver, F., ‘Global times and spaces: on historicizing the global’, History Workshop Journal , 64 (2007), pp. 321–2CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

17 G. Combe, The constitution of man (Edinburgh, 1828), pp. 145 and 254.

18 M. Rudwick, Bursting the limits of time: the reconstruction of geohistory in the age of revolution (Chicago, IL, 2005), p. 363.

19 J. Endersby, Imperial nature: Joseph Hooker and the practices of Victorian science (Chicago, IL, 2008), pp. 44–5.

20 M. Dettelbach, ‘Humboldtian science’, in N. Jardine, J. Secord, and E. Spary, eds., Cultures of natural history (Cambridge, 1996), pp. 288–9.

21 Shapin, ‘Phrenological knowledge’, pp. 219–43; and Cooter, Cultural meaning, pp. 1–14.

22 Stack, D., ‘William Lovett and the National Association for the Political and Social Improvement of the People’, Historical Journal , 42 (1999), pp. 1027–50CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and van Wyhe, J., ‘Was phrenology a reform science? Towards a new generalization for phrenology’, History of Science , 42 (2004), pp. 313–31CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 315.

23 Van Wyhe, ‘Was phrenology a reform science?’, p. 326.

24 G. Jones, Languages of class: studies in English working-class history, 1832–1982 (Cambridge, 1983), pp. 90–178.

25 J. Innes, ‘“Reform” in English public life: the fortunes of a word’, in A. Burns and J. Innes, eds., Rethinking the age of reform: Britain, 1780–1850 (Cambridge, 2003), pp. 71–97.

26 D. Beales, ‘The idea of reform in British politics, 1829–1850’, in T. Blanning and P. Wende, eds., Reform in Great Britain and Germany, 1750–1850 (Oxford, 1999), pp. 160–70. See R. Williams, Keywords: a vocabulary of culture and society (London, 1976), pp. 221–2, for further uses of the word ‘reform’.

27 A. Desmond, The politics of evolution: morphology, medicine and reform in radical London (Chicago, IL, 1989), shows how early evolutionary ideas were put to diverse political uses.

28 N. Hall, ‘The materiality of letter writing: a nineteenth-century perspective’, in D. Barton and N. Hall, eds., Letter writing as a social practice (Amsterdam, 2000).

29 J. Browne, Charles Darwin: the power of place (2 vols., London, 2002), ii, pp. 10–13, also suggests the varied uses of correspondence.

30 For a classic statement, see A. Appadurai, ‘Introduction: commodities and the politics of value’, in A. Appadurai, ed., The social life of things: commodities in cultural perspective (Cambridge, 1988). Joyce, P., ‘What is the social in social history?’, Past and Present , 206 (2010), pp. 213–48CrossRefGoogle Scholar, invites social historians to pay attention to methodologies grounded in material culture. For a perspective from the history of science, see Taub, L., ‘Introduction: reengaging with instruments’, Isis , 102 (2011), pp. 689–96CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

31 Desmond, The politics of evolution, pp. 116–20; and van Wyhe, Phrenology, pp. 75–7.

32 J. Secord, Victorian sensation: the extraordinary publication, reception, and secret authorship of Vestiges of the Natural History of Creation (Chicago, IL, 2000), pp. 269–75.

33 G. Combe, The constitution of man (Edinburgh, 1835), p. 34.

34 Haskell, T., ‘Capitalism and the origins of the humanitarian sensibility, Part 1’, American Historical Review , 90 (1985), pp. 339–61CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

35 Huzzey, R., ‘The moral geography of British anti-slavery responsibilities’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , 22 (2012), pp. 111–39CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

36 A. Burns and J. Innes, ‘Introduction’, in Burns and Innes, eds., Rethinking the age of reform, pp. 1–3; Collini, S., ‘The idea of “character” in Victorian political thought’, Transactions of the Royal Historical Society , 35 (1985), pp. 2950 Google Scholar; and Secord, A., ‘Corresponding interests: artisans and gentlemen in nineteenth-century natural history’, British Journal for the History of Science , 27 (1994), pp. 383408 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

37 P. White, ‘Lives and letters: correspondence and public character in the nineteenth century’, in R. Crone, D. Gange, and K. Jones, eds., New perspectives in British cultural history, (Cambridge, 2007), pp. 192–5.

38 S. Tomlinson, Head masters: phrenology, secular education, and nineteenth-century social thought (Tuscaloosa, AL, 2005), pp. 234–8. For a classic study of the relationship between schools and prisons, see M. Foucault, Discipline and punish: the birth of the prison, trans. Alan Sheridan (London, 1997).

39 On the connection between abolition and other reform campaigns, see the essays collected in C. Bolt and S. Drescher, eds., Anti-slavery, religion, and reform: essays in memory of Roger Anstey (Folkestone, 1980).

40 Caldwell to Combe, 1 June 1836, MS7237, fo. 94, Combe papers; and McCandless, P., ‘Mesmerism and phrenology in antebellum Charleston: “Enough of the marvelous”’, Journal of Southern History , 58 (1992), pp. 199230 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

41 ‘Phrenological facts’, American Phrenological Journal , 7 (1845), pp. 21–3Google Scholar.

42 O. Fowler, Phrenology and physiology explained and applied to education and self-improvement (New York, NY, 1843), pp. 49–50.

43 C. Caldwell, The autobiography of Charles Caldwell (Philadelphia, PA, 1855), p. 62.

44 Caldwell to Combe, 14 Sept. 1835, MS7234, fo. 83, Combe papers.

45 Caldwell to Combe, 12 Aug. 1837, MS7242, fo. 46, Combe papers (all emphasis in the original); and Harlow, L., ‘Neither slavery nor abolitionism: James M. Pendleton and the problem of Christian conservative antislavery in 1840s Kentucky’, Slavery and Abolition , 27 (2006), pp. 367–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at pp. 367–8.

46 Caldwell to Combe, 30 Aug. 1839, MS7249, fo. 145, Combe papers.

47 Caldwell to Combe, 12 Aug. 1837, MS7242, fo. 46, Combe papers.

48 Caldwell to Combe, 30 Aug. 1839, MS7249, fo. 145, Combe papers.

49 Caldwell to Combe, 30 Aug. 1839, MS7249, fo. 145, Combe papers.

50 Caldwell, C., ‘Phrenology vindicated’, Annals of Phrenology , 1 (1833), pp. 1102 Google Scholar.

51 Combe's notes on Caldwell to Combe, 30 Aug. 1839, MS7249, fo. 145, Combe papers.

52 G. Combe, System of phrenology (Edinburgh, 1843), p. 355; and G. Combe, Notes on the United States of North America (3 vols., Edinburgh, 1841), ii, p. 78.

53 Caldwell to Combe, 25 Feb. 1838, MS7245, fo. 97, Combe papers.

54 Caldwell to Combe, 14 June 1839, MS7249, fo. 137, Combe papers.

55 Huzzey, ‘Moral geography’, pp. 111–39.

56 B. Fladeland, Men and brothers: Anglo-American antislavery cooperation (Champaign, IL, 1972), p. 292.

57 Caldwell to Combe, 14 June 1839, MS7249, fo. 137, Combe papers.

58 Combe to Channing, 28 Mar. 1838, MS7395, fo. 12, Combe papers.

59 Combe, Notes, iii, pp. 333–4.

60 ‘Colonial slavery tested by phrenology’, Phrenological Journal , 8 (1832–4), p. 83 Google Scholar.

61 Combe to Chapman, 22 Nov. 1845, MS7390, fo. 215, Combe papers.

62 Combe to Mott, 15 July 1839, MS7396, fo. 72, Combe papers. His view was later confirmed when he met Adams in Washington, dc, in February 1840, Combe, Notes, ii, pp. 106–7.

63 Hamilton, C., ‘Hercules subdued: the visual rhetoric of the kneeling slave’, Slavery and Abolition , 34 (2013), pp. 631–52CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at pp. 631–3; and C. Midgley, Women against slavery: the British campaigns, 1780–1870 (London, 1995), p. 97.

64 Letter-writing manuals instructed on the appropriate use of wax seals in this period, L. Schultz, ‘Letter-writing instruction in nineteenth-century schools in the United States’, in Barton and Hall, eds., Letter writing as a social practice, pp. 117–20.

65 Combe, Notes, ii, p. 49.

66 Mott to Combe, 8 Sept. 1839, MS7251, fo. 158, and Mott to Combe, 10 Apr. 1840, MS7256, fo. 60, Combe papers.

67 Mott to Combe, 26 Apr. 1847, MS7287, fo. 28, Combe papers.

68 K. Dierks, ‘The familiar letter and social refinement in America, 1750–1800’, in Barton and Hall, eds., Letter writing as a social practice, pp. 31–42, discusses the importance of familial correspondence in demonstrating social refinement.

69 Caldwell to Combe, 7 Oct. 1838, MS7245, fo. 99, Combe papers.

70 D. Barton and N. Hall, ‘Introduction’, in Barton and Hall, eds., Letter writing as a social practice, p. 7, note the gendered forms letter-writing could take.

71 Combe to Channing, 23 Apr. 1839, MS7396, fo. 52, Combe papers.

72 ‘On the American scheme of establishing colonies of free negro emigrants on the coast of Africa’, Phrenological Journal , 8 (1832–4), pp. 145–60Google Scholar.

73 B. Tomek, Colonization and its discontents: emancipation, emigration, and antislavery in antebellum Pennsylvania (New York, NY, 2011), p. 3.

74 ‘On the American scheme’, pp. 152–60.

75 Ibid., p. 159.

76 Fladeland, Men and brothers, p. 279.

77 Mott to Combe, 8 Sept. 1839, MS7251, fo. 52, Combe papers.

78 Mott to Combe, 13 June 1839, MS7251, fo. 183, Combe papers.

79 Combe to Mott, 15 July 1839, MS7396, fo. 72, Combe papers.

80 Mott to Combe, 8 Sept. 1839, MS7251, fo. 185, Combe papers.

81 F. Douglass, The claims of the negro ethnologically considered (Rochester, NY, 1854), pp. 20–35 (italics in original).

82 Rusert, B., ‘The science of freedom: counterarchives of racial science on the antebellum stage’, African American Review , 45 (2012), pp. 291308 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

83 Douglass, F., ‘The color line’, North American Review , 132 (1881), pp. 567–77Google Scholar. Secord, ‘Corresponding interests’, p. 397, argues that correspondence ‘accentuated class differences’. It seems to have had the same effect on racial difference too.

84 Combe, Notes, ii, p. 48.

85 F. Douglass, The life and times of Frederick Douglass (London, 1882), pp. 299–301.

86 Combe's notes on Caldwell to Combe, 30 Aug. 1839, MS7249, fo. 145, Combe papers.

87 M. Hoare, Norfolk Island: an outline of its history, 1774–1977 (Brisbane, 1969), p. 4.

88 Timings based on study of postmarks, particularly Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261, fo. 44, Combe papers.

89 R. Hughes, The fatal shore: a history of the transportation of convicts to Australia, 1787–1868 (London, 2003), pp. 499–502.

90 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261, fo. 44, Combe papers.

91 Maconochie to Combe, 27 Sept. 1834, MS7233, fo. 28, Combe papers.

92 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261, fo. 44, Combe papers.

93 Hughes, Fatal shore, p. 463.

94 Hoare, Norfolk Island, p. 36.

95 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261, fo. 44, Combe papers.

96 Hughes, Fatal shore, pp. 500–1.

97 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261, fo. 44, Combe papers.

98 Maconochie to Gipps, 25 Feb. 1840, in F. Watson, ed., Historical records of Australia (26 vols., Sydney, 1914), i, p. 535.

99 Hughes, Fatal shore, p. 501.

100 D. Melossi and M. Parvani, The prison and the factory: origins of the penitentiary system, trans. G. Cousin (London, 1981).

101 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261, fo. 44, Combe papers.

102 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261 fo. 44, and Maconochie to Combe, 12 Nov. 1844, MS7273, fo. 44, Combe papers.

103 Hughes, Fatal shore, p. 409.

104 Ibid., pp. 503–13.

105 Maconochie to Combe, 16 June 1841, MS7261 fo. 44, and Maconochie to Combe, 12 Nov. 1844, MS7273, fo. 44, Combe papers.

106 Combe to Maconochie, 31 Oct. 1844, MS7388, fo. 782, Combe papers.

107 Combe, Notes, ii, pp. 2, 326; and Combe, G., ‘Mr Combe on the institutions of Germany’, Phrenological Journal , 10 (1836–7), pp. 698706 Google Scholar, at p. 698.

108 Wagner, K., ‘Confessions of a skull: phrenology and colonial knowledge in early nineteenth-century India’, History Workshop Journal , 69 (2010), pp. 2751 CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at pp. 38–45.

109 [Combe, G.], ‘Norfolk Island – reform in convict treatment’, Phrenological Journal , 15 (1842), pp. 2232 Google Scholar, at p. 23.

110 Combe, G., ‘Penal colonies’, Phrenological Journal , 18 (1845), pp. 101–22Google Scholar.

111 M. Meranze, Laboratories of virtue: punishment, revolution, and authority in Philadelphia, 1760–1835 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1996), p. 1.

112 Ibid., pp. 295–6.

113 Combe, Notes, ii, pp. 13–15.

114 Howe to Combe, [undated 1846], MS7275, fo. 110, Combe papers.

115 Meranze, Laboratories of virtue, p. 294.

116 Mackenzie to Combe, 29 Nov. 1839, MS7251, fo. 130, Combe papers.

117 Hurlbut to Combe, 27 Feb. 1846, MS7280, fo. 79, Combe papers.

118 Combe to Howe, 23 Feb. 1846, MS7390, fo. 321, Combe papers.

119 Hurlbut to Combe, 7 Oct. 1846, MS7280, fo. 80, and Mann to Combe, 28 Feb. 1845, MS7276, fo. 111, Combe papers.

120 M. Hindus, Prison and plantation: crime, justice, and authority in Massachusetts and South Carolina, 1767–1878 (Chapel Hill, NC, 1980), p. 220.

121 Mann to Combe, 1 Oct. 1840, MS7256, fo. 27e, Combe papers.

122 Combe to Maconochie, 23 Aug. 1846, MS7390, fo. 496, Combe papers.

123 On the foundation of Hindu College, and other educational establishments in Bengal during this period, see K. Raj, Relocating modern science: circulation and the construction of knowledge in South Asia and Europe, 1650–1900 (New Delhi, 2006), pp. 159–79.

124 Paterson to Combe, 20 July 1825, MS7216, fo. 46, Combe papers, and Paterson to Bell, [1825], MSS2/0232–01, College of Physicians of Philadelphia, PA, USA (henceforth, ‘College of Physicians’). On phrenology and race more generally in South Asia, see Kapila, S., ‘Race matters: orientalism and religion, India and beyond, c. 1770–1880’, Modern Asian Studies , 41 (2007), pp. 471513 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

125 Assistant-Surgeons’ papers, IOR/L/MIL/9/370, fo. 170, British Library, London.

126 Paterson to Combe, 10 May 1823, MS7211, fo. 7, Combe papers.

127 Timings based on study of postmarks, particularly Paterson to Combe, 23 Apr. 1825, MS7216, fo. 47, Combe papers.

128 Paterson to Combe, 20 July 1825, MS7216, fo. 46, Combe papers.

129 Paterson to Combe, 23 Apr. 1825, MS7216, fo. 47, Combe papers, Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians, and Calcutta annual register and directory (Calcutta, 1831), p. 313.

130 Paterson to Combe, 20 July 1825, MS7216, fo. 46, Combe papers, and Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians.

131 Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians.

132 Ibid.

133 Raj, Relocating modern science, p. 178; and S. Nair, ‘“Bungallee House Set on Fire by Galvanism’”’: natural and experimental philosophy as public science in a colonial metropolis (1794–1806)’, in B. Lightman, G. McOuat, and L. Stewart, eds., The circulation of knowledge between Britain, India and China: the early-modern world to the twentieth century (Leiden, 2013), p. 52.

134 Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians.

135 P. Acharya, ‘Education in Old Calcutta’, in S. Chaudhuri, ed., Calcutta: the living city (2 vols., Oxford, 1990), i, pp. 86–8.

136 Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians.

137 D. Drummond, Objections to phrenology: being the substance of a series of papers communicated to the Calcutta Phrenological Society (Calcutta, 1829), pp. 62, 89, and 113.

138 Beatson to Combe, 28 Jan. 1827, MS7219, fo. 3, Combe papers.

139 Paterson to Combe, 10 May 1823, MS7211, fo. 7, Combe papers.

140 Drummond, Objections, p. 8; and Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians.

141 Combe to Beatson, 23 May 1826, MS7383, fo. 317, Combe papers.

142 Paterson to Bell, [1825], College of Physicians.

143 Paterson to Combe, 23 Apr. 1825, MS7216, fo. 47, Combe papers.

144 Tomlinson, Head masters, p. x.

145 Combe, Notes, i, pp. 64–5.

146 Combe to Mann, 25 Apr. 1839, MS7396, fo. 55, Combe papers.

147 Combe to Mann, 29 Dec. 1844, MS7390, fo. 16, Combe papers.

148 Combe to Mann, 5 July 1844, MS7398, fo. 26, Combe papers.

149 Combe to Mann, [Dec. 1840], MS7388, fo. 278, Combe papers.

150 Tomlinson, Head masters, pp. ix–x.

151 Howe to Combe, 5 Mar. 1839, MS7251, fo. 49, Combe papers; and Combe, Notes, i, p. 61.

152 Howe to Mann, 19 Mar. 1838, 1137, MS Am 2119, Houghton Library, Harvard University, MA, USA.

153 Mann to Combe, 22 July 1853, MS7335, fo. 17, Combe papers.

154 S. Sanders, ‘Antioch College: establishing the faith’, in J. Hodges, J. O'Donnell, and J. Oliver, eds., Cradles of conscience: Ohio's independent colleges and universities (Kent, OH, 2003), p. 13; and Tomlinson, Head masters, p. 291.

155 Howe to Combe, 29 Sept. 1840, MS7255, fo. 101, Combe papers.

156 Combe to Mann, 30 Apr. 1841, MS7388, fo. 511, Combe papers.

157 [Combe, G.], ‘Education in America’, Edinburgh Review , 73 (1841), pp. 486502 Google Scholar, at p. 492.

158 Moyn and Sartori, ‘Approaches to global intellectual history’, p. 17.

159 Subrahmanyam, S., ‘Global intellectual history beyond Hegel and Marx’, History and Theory , 54 (2015), pp. 126–37CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

160 On the history of global history, see S. Conrad, What is global history? (Princeton, NJ, 2016), pp. 17–36. On the sciences as part of global history, see Sivasundaram, S., ‘Introduction: global histories of science’, Isis , 101 (2010), pp. 95–7CrossRefGoogle Scholar. The term ‘global’ did not take on its modern meaning until the 1890s, see ‘global, adj.’, Oxford English Dictionary Online,, 2009. Combe and the phrenologists of the nineteenth century therefore used terms such as ‘globe’, ‘world’, and ‘universal’ rather than the specific word ‘global’. (I am grateful to Simon Schaffer for this reference and comment.)

161 Secord, J., ‘Knowledge in transit’, Isis , 95 (2004), pp. 654–72CrossRefGoogle Scholar, at p. 656, argues that we should understand ‘knowledge as communication’.

162 For a critique of global histories which ignore limits, see F. Cooper, Colonialism in question: theory, knowledge, history (Berkley, CA, 2005), pp. 91–112; and Hodges, S., ‘The global menace’, Social History of Medicine , 25 (2012), pp. 719–28CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

163 Staff, The penny post, pp. 126–40, 149–52.

164 Combe to Broussais, 9 May 1832, MS7385, fo. 297, Combe papers.

165 Bose to Combe, 7 Aug. 1846, MS7278, fos. 33–4, Combe papers.

166 Kapila, ‘Race matters’, pp. 502–11; and Rusert, ‘The science of freedom’, pp. 301–4.

167 Maconochie to Combe, 31 Aug. 1844, MS7273, fo. 30, Combe papers.

168 Combe, ‘Penal colonies’, p. 114.

169 Combe to Mann, 29 Dec. 1844, MS7390, fo. 16, Combe papers.

170 Combe to Mott, 28 Oct. 1847, MS7391, fo. 139, Combe papers.

171 Mott to Combe, 28 May 1850, MS7310, fo. 27, Combe papers.

172 ‘Miscellany’, American Phrenological Journal , 5 (1843), p. 288 Google Scholar.

173 Caldwell, C., ‘New views of penitentiary discipline and moral education and reformation of criminals’, Phrenological Journal , 7 (1831–2), pp. 385410 Google Scholar, at pp. 387–8 (italics in original).

174 Hindus, Prison and plantation, pp. 178, 236–7.

175 It was not until the 1820s that abolitionists came to associate their work with the term ‘reform’, D. Turley, The culture of English antislavery, 1780–1860 (London, 2003), p. 183.

176 On the development of ‘reform’ as a political ideology, see A. Burns and J. Innes, ‘Introduction’, and Innes, ‘“Reform” in English public life’; and Beales ‘The idea of reform’.

177 Struve to Combe, 3 July 1848, MS7297, fo. 115, Combe papers.

178 Struve to Combe, 28 Aug. 1846, MS7282, fo. 103, Combe papers.

179 Struve to Combe, 9 Aug. 1848, MS7297, fo. 117, Combe papers.

180 P. Wende, ‘1848: reform or revolution in Germany and Great Britain’, in Blanning and Wende, eds., Reform in Great Britain and Germany; and Innes, ‘“Reform”’ in English public life’, pp. 86–8.

181 Combe to Struve, 31 July 1848, MS7391, fo. 496, Combe papers.

182 Struve to Combe, 30 Aug. 1849, MS7304, fo. 15, Combe papers.