dneill


Deborah Neill

Photo of Deborah Neill

Department of History

Associate Professor

Office: 2162 York Lanes
Phone: 416-736-2100 Ext: 20365
Email: dneill@yorku.ca

Media Requests Welcome


I am a Modern European Historian, specializing in the histories of Germany, France, European colonialism in Africa, and the histories of colonial medicine and humanitarianism. Past research has included explorations of the role of transnational ties between tropical medicine specialists in Africa and Europe (early 20th century) and the history of food and nutrition in France and its colonies. My current project explores the expansion of trade in West Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with special attention paid to the Holt family of Liverpool and the company’s activities in British, French, Spanish and German colonies in west-central Africa.

My teaching interests are broadly focused on the history of modern Europe since 1789 and include Imperialism, World Wars One and Two, the Holocaust, Modern Germany, Modern France, War, Revolution and Society in the 20th century, and Globalization.

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Degrees

PhD, Univeristy of Toronto
MA, University of Toronto
BA, University of Waterloo

Professional Leadership

Co-Organizer, Joint York-University of Toronto Seminar in French History (with Eric Jennings) 2010-present

Co-organizer, Workshop on German Colonial Capitalism (With Kim Todzi, University of Hamburg and Tristan Oestermann, Humboldt University) May 2021

Research Interests

History , Globalization, Modern Europe, History of Colonialism, History of Medicine, History of Modern warfare

Current Research Projects

"The Good Capitalists": John Holt & Co. in Western Africa, 1862-1914

    Summary:

    This project explores the business of John Holt & Co., a merchant house who had plantations, factories, shipping facilities and retail stores across a diverse range of British, German, French and Spanish colonies in west-central Africa by the early 20th century. I examine its transnational business practices, its exploitation of workers and natural resources, and how it achieved success - often by using European military and political power to gain advantages over its rivals. I also look at the experiences of Africans who worked for or partnered with the company, showing how they faced significant racial discrimination in the company's culture but showed innovation and entrepreneurship in utilizing business opportunities to forge networks and partnerships of their own. In looking at Holt I more broadly examine the development of exploitative practices by western companies in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Description:

    Current outputs related to this project include 2 articles: the first is co-written with Kyle Prochnow, and explores Holt's business model on the Spanish island of Fernando Po (forthcoming in African Economic History, 2021), and the second is a study of John Holt's views on the relationship of ethics, activism, and business. This essay is part of an edited volume currently under review.

    See more
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Start Date:
      Month: Apr   Year: 2014

    End Date:
      Month: Apr   Year: 2018

    Funders:
    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Networks in Tropical Medicine

    Summary:

    This book was published by Stanford University Press in 2012.

    Description:

    The book explores transnational connections between tropical medicine experts as they emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with special emphasis on cooperation and competition in human trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) research. I argue that combating tropical diseases depended on the cooperation of experts across European and African borders, but that this did not lead to notable success in eradicating or curing diseases like sleeping sickness. Indeed, the physicians and officials who developed policies to combat sleeping sickness in Africa before 1914 privileged biomedical research and harsh containment methods that left a painful legacy in many territories. My case studies include what was at the time German East Africa, British Uganda, French Congo and German Cameroon.

    See more
    Role: Author


    See more
    Funders:
    Minor Research Grant (York University)
History of the Anti-Alcohol Campaigns

    Description:

    In this project, my goal is to demonstrate how the transnational campaigns against the colonial liquor trade in Africa between the 1880s and 1930s represented an important contributing moment to shaping the character of modern western activist movements in the global south. Many European countries participated in the manufacturing, sale and distribution of liquor to the colonies. Western missionaries, philanthropists and humanitarians were horrified by the extension of this trade. Building on the tactics developed by the anti-slavery campaigners in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a new generation of activists organized a campaign against colonial government policies, the lucrative European liquor industry, and consumers of high-alcohol content spirits in West and Central Africa. Their focus may have been on alcohol, but their work ultimately highlighted some of the larger systemic problems of colonialism. Yet the solutions they proposed unfairly targeted the consumers of alcohol rather than taking on problems in the industry itself.

    See more
    Funders:
    SSHRC Small Grants Program
    Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES)
    York Internal Grant - Minor Research Grant
    York Conference Travel Fund
Books

Publication
Year

Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890-1930 (Stanford University Press, 2012) http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=11368

2012

Book Chapters

Publication
Year

“Of Carnivores and Conquerors: French Nutritional Debates in the Age of Empire, 1880s-1914,” in Elizabeth Neswald, Ulrike Thoms and David Smith, eds., Setting Nutritional Standards: Theory, Policies, Practices. Rochester: Rochester University Press, 2017.

2017

“Science and Civilizing Missions: Germans and the Transnational Community of Colonial Medicine,” in Bradley Naranch and Geoff Eley, eds., German Colonialism in a Global Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015).

2015

Book Reviews

Publication
Year

Anna Greenwood, ed., Beyond the State: the Colonial Medical Service in British Africa. Manchester, 2016. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 48, no. 1 (2017): 116-118.

2017

Evans, Andrew. Anthropology at War: World War One and the Science of Race in Germany. Chicago, 2010. For German History, 30, no. 1 (2012): 145-146.

2012

Stephen A. Toth, Beyond Papillon: The French Overseas Penal Colonies, 1854-1952. Lincoln, NE: 2006. For Itinerario, 31 (1) (2007).

2007

Brantlinger, Patrick, Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930. Cornell: 2004. For The Canadian Journal of History, 40, no. 1 (2005).

2005

Maurer, Konrad and Maurer, Ulrike, Alzheimer: The Life of a Physician and the Career of a Disease. New York: 2003. For H-German, (August 2004).

2004

Penny, Glenn. Objects of Culture: Ethnology and Ethnographic Museums in Imperial Germany. Chapel Hill and London: 2002. German History, 22, no. 2 (2004): 277-8.

2004

Walther, Daniel Joseph. Creating Germans Abroad. Athens, Ohio: 2002. German History, 22, no. 2 (2004): 278-279.

2002

Journal Articles

Publication
Year

Merchants, Malaria, and Manliness: a Patient’s Experience of Tropical Disease,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 46, no. 2 (2018).

2018

Neill, D. “Finding the “Ideal Diet”: Nutrition, Culture and Dietary Practices in France and French Equatorial Africa, c. 1890s to 1920s,” Food and Foodways, vol. 17, no. 1 (2009), 1-28.

2009

Neill, D. “Paul Ehrlich’s Colonial Connections: Scientific Networks and the Response to the Sleeping Sickness Epidemic, 1900-1914,” Social History of Medicine, vol. 22, no. 1 (2009), 61-77.

2009

“Commerce, Cookbooks and Colonialism: Cross-Cultural Cuisine in the Age of Empire,” World History Bulletin, 1 (Spring 2008): 10-13.

2008

Conference Papers

Publication
Year

“John Holt’s Economic Conscience,” presentation at the conference “Moralising Commerce in a Globalising World: Approaches to a History of Economic Conscience 1600-1900,” German Historical Institute London, June 2017.

2017

“Technologies and Health Care in the history of Freetown,” presentation at the “Technologies and Trials of Global Health in Africa” panel, “Innovation, Transformation, and Sustainable Futures in Africa,” Dakar, Senegal, June 2016.

2016

“Capitalism and Humanitarianism: A British Merchant and the Campaign against Labour Abuses in the French Congo,” Britain and the World Conference, June 2016.

2016

“Visions of ‘Humane Development’: John Holt and the Campaign against Concession Company Rule in the French Congo, 1899-1915,” Society for French Historical Studies (SFHS), Nashville, April 2016.

2016

“Surviving the ‘White Man’s Grave’: a Merchant’s Experience of Tropical Disease,” Midwest Conference on British Studies, Detroit September 2015.

2015

(with Juanita de Barros) “The Business of Tropical Medicine: Transnational Corporations and the Development of the Liverpool School in the early Twentieth Century,” American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) New Haven May 2015.

2015

“Friedrich Karl Kleine and the British in Interwar Africa,” Canadian Historical Association, (CHA), Brock, May 27, 2014.

2014

“Bayer 205: Propaganda, Rivalry, and Drug Therapy Research in Africa, 1920-1930,” American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) May 19, 2013.

2013

“The Colonial Anti-liquor Campaigns and the Origins of Western Humanitarianism, 1880-1930" Max Kade Center for European and German Studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN, November 29, 2012.

2012

“The History of Humanitarianism: Complicating the Grand Narrative,” roundtable at the Western Society for French History, Banff, October 13, 2012.

2012

“From Global Knowledge to Local Standards: Foreign Influences on Emerging Nutritional Science in France, 1890s to 1914,” Conference entitled “Setting Standards: the History and Politics of Nutritional Theories and Practices, 1890-1930,” Brock University, August 2010.

2010

“Crossing Borders: Competition, Cooperation and Medical Expertise in the African Sleeping Sickness Campaigns Before World War One,” Columbia University Centre for International History, New York, December 3, 2010.

2010

“Health Reform or Moral Crusade? French Doctors and the Colonial Anti-Alcohol Movement, 1890-1914,” Society for French Historical studies (SFHS), New Jersey, April 2008.

2008

“The Intellectual Origins of German Colonial Studies: Interdisciplinary Origins of an Evolving Research Agenda,” roundtable at the American Historical Association (AHA), Washington D.C. January 2008.

2008

“Colonial Cuisine: Hygiene, Health and “Frenchness,” 1890-1940,” presented at the French Historical Studies Association, Houston Texas, March 16, 2007.

2007

“Germans and the International Anti-Alcohol Movement, 1880-1914,” presented at the German Studies Association, San Diego, October 2007.

2007

“The International Anti-Alcohol Movement and the Atlantic World, 1885-1930,” presented at the York University Workshop “Alcohol and the Making of the Atlantic World: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” Toronto, October 2007.

2007

“Trading Spaces: Duala Elites in Europe Before and After World War One,” presented at a roundtable at the American Historical Association (AHA) Annual Meeting, Atlanta Georgia, January 2007.

2007

"Transnationalism, Internationalism, and Scientific Networks Before World War One," Second Annual German Modernities Workshop, University of Michigan, May 2006.

2006

"Sleeping Sickness in Africa: Colonialism, Medical Ethics and the Search for a Cure, 1900-1914," African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., November 2005.

2005

"'Accidents May Happen': Experimentation and the Treatment of Sleeping Sickness in the African Colonies, 1900-1914," McMaster Colloquium in the History of Medicine, Hamilton, October 2005.

2005

Other

Publication
Year

“Vaccinations and the Decline of Diphtheria,” Active History.ca, June 3, 2015 http://activehistory.ca/2015/06/vaccinations-and-the-decline-of-diphtheria/

2015



Upcoming Courses

Term Course Number Section Title Type
Fall 2021 AP/HIST3843 3.0 A History of the Second World War to 1944 LECT
Winter 2022 AP/HIST3844 3.0 M WW II and its Aftermath: 1944-1949 LECT
Fall/Winter 2021 AP/HIST4360 6.0 A Europe Between the Wars, 1918-1939 SEMR


I am a Modern European Historian, specializing in the histories of Germany, France, European colonialism in Africa, and the histories of colonial medicine and humanitarianism. Past research has included explorations of the role of transnational ties between tropical medicine specialists in Africa and Europe (early 20th century) and the history of food and nutrition in France and its colonies. My current project explores the expansion of trade in West Africa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with special attention paid to the Holt family of Liverpool and the company’s activities in British, French, Spanish and German colonies in west-central Africa.

My teaching interests are broadly focused on the history of modern Europe since 1789 and include Imperialism, World Wars One and Two, the Holocaust, Modern Germany, Modern France, War, Revolution and Society in the 20th century, and Globalization.

Degrees

PhD, Univeristy of Toronto
MA, University of Toronto
BA, University of Waterloo

Professional Leadership

Co-Organizer, Joint York-University of Toronto Seminar in French History (with Eric Jennings) 2010-present

Co-organizer, Workshop on German Colonial Capitalism (With Kim Todzi, University of Hamburg and Tristan Oestermann, Humboldt University) May 2021

Research Interests

History , Globalization, Modern Europe, History of Colonialism, History of Medicine, History of Modern warfare

Current Research Projects

"The Good Capitalists": John Holt & Co. in Western Africa, 1862-1914

    Summary:

    This project explores the business of John Holt & Co., a merchant house who had plantations, factories, shipping facilities and retail stores across a diverse range of British, German, French and Spanish colonies in west-central Africa by the early 20th century. I examine its transnational business practices, its exploitation of workers and natural resources, and how it achieved success - often by using European military and political power to gain advantages over its rivals. I also look at the experiences of Africans who worked for or partnered with the company, showing how they faced significant racial discrimination in the company's culture but showed innovation and entrepreneurship in utilizing business opportunities to forge networks and partnerships of their own. In looking at Holt I more broadly examine the development of exploitative practices by western companies in Africa in the 19th and 20th centuries.

    Description:

    Current outputs related to this project include 2 articles: the first is co-written with Kyle Prochnow, and explores Holt's business model on the Spanish island of Fernando Po (forthcoming in African Economic History, 2021), and the second is a study of John Holt's views on the relationship of ethics, activism, and business. This essay is part of an edited volume currently under review.

    Project Type: Funded
    Role: Principal Investigator

    Start Date:
      Month: Apr   Year: 2014

    End Date:
      Month: Apr   Year: 2018

    Funders:
    Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC)
Networks in Tropical Medicine

    Summary:

    This book was published by Stanford University Press in 2012.

    Description:

    The book explores transnational connections between tropical medicine experts as they emerged in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, with special emphasis on cooperation and competition in human trypanosomiasis (sleeping sickness) research. I argue that combating tropical diseases depended on the cooperation of experts across European and African borders, but that this did not lead to notable success in eradicating or curing diseases like sleeping sickness. Indeed, the physicians and officials who developed policies to combat sleeping sickness in Africa before 1914 privileged biomedical research and harsh containment methods that left a painful legacy in many territories. My case studies include what was at the time German East Africa, British Uganda, French Congo and German Cameroon.

    Project Type: Funded
    Role: Author


    Project Type: Funded
    Funders:
    Minor Research Grant (York University)
History of the Anti-Alcohol Campaigns

    Description:

    In this project, my goal is to demonstrate how the transnational campaigns against the colonial liquor trade in Africa between the 1880s and 1930s represented an important contributing moment to shaping the character of modern western activist movements in the global south. Many European countries participated in the manufacturing, sale and distribution of liquor to the colonies. Western missionaries, philanthropists and humanitarians were horrified by the extension of this trade. Building on the tactics developed by the anti-slavery campaigners in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, a new generation of activists organized a campaign against colonial government policies, the lucrative European liquor industry, and consumers of high-alcohol content spirits in West and Central Africa. Their focus may have been on alcohol, but their work ultimately highlighted some of the larger systemic problems of colonialism. Yet the solutions they proposed unfairly targeted the consumers of alcohol rather than taking on problems in the industry itself.

    Project Type: Funded
    Funders:
    SSHRC Small Grants Program
    Canadian Centre for German and European Studies (CCGES)
    York Internal Grant - Minor Research Grant
    York Conference Travel Fund

All Publications


Book Chapters

Publication
Year

“Of Carnivores and Conquerors: French Nutritional Debates in the Age of Empire, 1880s-1914,” in Elizabeth Neswald, Ulrike Thoms and David Smith, eds., Setting Nutritional Standards: Theory, Policies, Practices. Rochester: Rochester University Press, 2017.

2017

“Science and Civilizing Missions: Germans and the Transnational Community of Colonial Medicine,” in Bradley Naranch and Geoff Eley, eds., German Colonialism in a Global Age (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015).

2015

Book Reviews

Publication
Year

Anna Greenwood, ed., Beyond the State: the Colonial Medical Service in British Africa. Manchester, 2016. Journal of Interdisciplinary History, 48, no. 1 (2017): 116-118.

2017

Evans, Andrew. Anthropology at War: World War One and the Science of Race in Germany. Chicago, 2010. For German History, 30, no. 1 (2012): 145-146.

2012

Stephen A. Toth, Beyond Papillon: The French Overseas Penal Colonies, 1854-1952. Lincoln, NE: 2006. For Itinerario, 31 (1) (2007).

2007

Brantlinger, Patrick, Dark Vanishings: Discourse on the Extinction of Primitive Races, 1800-1930. Cornell: 2004. For The Canadian Journal of History, 40, no. 1 (2005).

2005

Maurer, Konrad and Maurer, Ulrike, Alzheimer: The Life of a Physician and the Career of a Disease. New York: 2003. For H-German, (August 2004).

2004

Penny, Glenn. Objects of Culture: Ethnology and Ethnographic Museums in Imperial Germany. Chapel Hill and London: 2002. German History, 22, no. 2 (2004): 277-8.

2004

Walther, Daniel Joseph. Creating Germans Abroad. Athens, Ohio: 2002. German History, 22, no. 2 (2004): 278-279.

2002

Books

Publication
Year

Networks in Tropical Medicine: Internationalism, Colonialism, and the Rise of a Medical Specialty, 1890-1930 (Stanford University Press, 2012) http://www.sup.org/book.cgi?id=11368

2012

Journal Articles

Publication
Year

Merchants, Malaria, and Manliness: a Patient’s Experience of Tropical Disease,” Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History, 46, no. 2 (2018).

2018

Neill, D. “Finding the “Ideal Diet”: Nutrition, Culture and Dietary Practices in France and French Equatorial Africa, c. 1890s to 1920s,” Food and Foodways, vol. 17, no. 1 (2009), 1-28.

2009

Neill, D. “Paul Ehrlich’s Colonial Connections: Scientific Networks and the Response to the Sleeping Sickness Epidemic, 1900-1914,” Social History of Medicine, vol. 22, no. 1 (2009), 61-77.

2009

“Commerce, Cookbooks and Colonialism: Cross-Cultural Cuisine in the Age of Empire,” World History Bulletin, 1 (Spring 2008): 10-13.

2008

Conference Papers

Publication
Year

“John Holt’s Economic Conscience,” presentation at the conference “Moralising Commerce in a Globalising World: Approaches to a History of Economic Conscience 1600-1900,” German Historical Institute London, June 2017.

2017

“Technologies and Health Care in the history of Freetown,” presentation at the “Technologies and Trials of Global Health in Africa” panel, “Innovation, Transformation, and Sustainable Futures in Africa,” Dakar, Senegal, June 2016.

2016

“Capitalism and Humanitarianism: A British Merchant and the Campaign against Labour Abuses in the French Congo,” Britain and the World Conference, June 2016.

2016

“Visions of ‘Humane Development’: John Holt and the Campaign against Concession Company Rule in the French Congo, 1899-1915,” Society for French Historical Studies (SFHS), Nashville, April 2016.

2016

“Surviving the ‘White Man’s Grave’: a Merchant’s Experience of Tropical Disease,” Midwest Conference on British Studies, Detroit September 2015.

2015

(with Juanita de Barros) “The Business of Tropical Medicine: Transnational Corporations and the Development of the Liverpool School in the early Twentieth Century,” American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) New Haven May 2015.

2015

“Friedrich Karl Kleine and the British in Interwar Africa,” Canadian Historical Association, (CHA), Brock, May 27, 2014.

2014

“Bayer 205: Propaganda, Rivalry, and Drug Therapy Research in Africa, 1920-1930,” American Association for the History of Medicine (AAHM) May 19, 2013.

2013

“The Colonial Anti-liquor Campaigns and the Origins of Western Humanitarianism, 1880-1930" Max Kade Center for European and German Studies, Vanderbilt University, Nashville TN, November 29, 2012.

2012

“The History of Humanitarianism: Complicating the Grand Narrative,” roundtable at the Western Society for French History, Banff, October 13, 2012.

2012

“From Global Knowledge to Local Standards: Foreign Influences on Emerging Nutritional Science in France, 1890s to 1914,” Conference entitled “Setting Standards: the History and Politics of Nutritional Theories and Practices, 1890-1930,” Brock University, August 2010.

2010

“Crossing Borders: Competition, Cooperation and Medical Expertise in the African Sleeping Sickness Campaigns Before World War One,” Columbia University Centre for International History, New York, December 3, 2010.

2010

“Health Reform or Moral Crusade? French Doctors and the Colonial Anti-Alcohol Movement, 1890-1914,” Society for French Historical studies (SFHS), New Jersey, April 2008.

2008

“The Intellectual Origins of German Colonial Studies: Interdisciplinary Origins of an Evolving Research Agenda,” roundtable at the American Historical Association (AHA), Washington D.C. January 2008.

2008

“Colonial Cuisine: Hygiene, Health and “Frenchness,” 1890-1940,” presented at the French Historical Studies Association, Houston Texas, March 16, 2007.

2007

“Germans and the International Anti-Alcohol Movement, 1880-1914,” presented at the German Studies Association, San Diego, October 2007.

2007

“The International Anti-Alcohol Movement and the Atlantic World, 1885-1930,” presented at the York University Workshop “Alcohol and the Making of the Atlantic World: Historical and Contemporary Perspectives,” Toronto, October 2007.

2007

“Trading Spaces: Duala Elites in Europe Before and After World War One,” presented at a roundtable at the American Historical Association (AHA) Annual Meeting, Atlanta Georgia, January 2007.

2007

"Transnationalism, Internationalism, and Scientific Networks Before World War One," Second Annual German Modernities Workshop, University of Michigan, May 2006.

2006

"Sleeping Sickness in Africa: Colonialism, Medical Ethics and the Search for a Cure, 1900-1914," African Studies Association (ASA) Annual Meeting, Washington D.C., November 2005.

2005

"'Accidents May Happen': Experimentation and the Treatment of Sleeping Sickness in the African Colonies, 1900-1914," McMaster Colloquium in the History of Medicine, Hamilton, October 2005.

2005

Other

Publication
Year

“Vaccinations and the Decline of Diphtheria,” Active History.ca, June 3, 2015 http://activehistory.ca/2015/06/vaccinations-and-the-decline-of-diphtheria/

2015



Upcoming Courses

Term Course Number Section Title Type
Fall 2021 AP/HIST3843 3.0 A History of the Second World War to 1944 LECT
Winter 2022 AP/HIST3844 3.0 M WW II and its Aftermath: 1944-1949 LECT
Fall/Winter 2021 AP/HIST4360 6.0 A Europe Between the Wars, 1918-1939 SEMR