How the West Was Won: A Deconstruction of Politicised Colonial Engineering

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History has taught us that the Global North’s attempts to ‘civilise’ the rest of the world’s population, both now and in colonial times, have been fraught with difficulty. This paper argues that this difficulty is mainly owing to the political standpoint and positioning of our perceived engineering and technical superiority. A failure to recognise this viewpoint and to change the way in which we work together—in a global sense—to solve issues such as climate change, threatens our ability to survive as a species. Political standpoints on such issues still assume a superiority of governments in the Global North. This paper retraces colonial engineering projects, mainly directed from the UK, that failed to consider the development of other populations in the world, and their needs. It is also posited that our exploitation in the Global North, which assumes historical superiority as a basic premise, will fail in tackling major issues. Change is needed through a decolonisation of engineering projects, and western engineering curricula that are used to train future professionals. Evidence of the impact of decolonisation on the engineering discipline itself is scarce, but nevertheless, a response is needed to ensure that a more inclusive curriculum and narrative is developed.
Original languageEnglish
JournalPolitical Quarterly
Early online date23 Oct 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Oct 2019


  • Decolonisation
  • Engineering
  • History
  • Technology
  • Curriculum
  • Development


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