India colonial environmental history

A dialog on H-Asia list. January-February, 1996

Date: Wed, 31 Jan 1996 14:43:11 -0800
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Subject: H-ASIA: India: Colonial environmental history

H-ASIA January 31, 1996
Query on sources on environmental history of colonial India (x-post H-ASEH (environmental history network)

From: Laxman D. Satya <>

Dear friends:

I am collecting data on the environmental impact of British colonialism in India in the nineteenth century. I would greatly appreciate if anyone would please suggest any sources (particularly secondary sources) in this field.

Thank you,

Laxman D. Satya

Date: Sat, 3 Feb 1996 10:36:55 -0800
Sender: H-Net list for Asian History and Culture <>
From: Frank Conlon <>
Subject: H-ASIA: India colonial environmental history

H-ASIA February 3, 1996
Responses to query on Indian colonial environmental history

Cross post items: with reference to Indian colonial environmental history:

1.) Note: in this post a few titles are given in incomplete form, please see the editorial note following with details. Also, the H-ASEH editor appears to have not included e-mail addresses for some of the posts. Any inconvenience is regretted.


From: "Dennis Williams, Southern Nazarene U." <DWILLIAM@SNU.EDU>

Re useful materials on India and landscape and impact of colonialism: see especially Mahesh Rangarajan, _Fencing the Forest; the colonial state and the forests of the Central Provinces 1800-1947_ (Delhi: OUP 1996). This has just come out and is very good on Shikar.

The SSRC has just held a colloquium (in Hawaii!) on environmental discourses in South and South East Asia many useful papers which Julia Cole of SSRC New York would no doubt pass on. See also Zimmerman, The Jungle of the Aromas: OUP 1993 for a fascinating analysis of the ecological content of early sanskritic texts. See also Mackenzie, The Empire of Nature, Manchester UK 1990 and Mackenzie ed. Imperialism and the natural world. In the latter I have a 55pp paper called on colonial expansion, ecological hegemony and popular resistance, but it is already outdated and somewhat unsatisfactory, but has a useful bibliog. There are also books by Ram Guha (The Unquiet Woods) and Guha and Gadgil (This fissured land-towards an ecological history of India) but they are both very problematic, nationalistic and historically inaccurate, suffering from what I like to call the Golden Age syndrome (i.e. every thing pre-colonial was wonderful; a notion which appromimates the myth of trhe ecological (red) Indian in the USA). Issue 2 of _Environment and History_ has several good articles on colonialism and the env. esp by Damodaran and Michael Mann. _Environment and History_ can be obtained from White Horse Press, 10 High St Knapwell, Cambridge UK sub is 60 dollars a year but they supply individual issues. Unfortunately _Nature and the Orient; essays in the env hist of S and SE Asia_ (OUP Delhi 1996) isn't out yet (it has gone to press) but the bibliography is helpful for those taking South Asian courses. If anyone is desperate I can send them a copy.

Other thoughts on colonialism and the environment and early modern period: While Crosby is useful (and he would be the first to admit this) his Ecological Imperlaism does NOT cover Africa, India or SE Asia at all and his theories dont work well in those areas, arguably. Interestingly the introduction of Maize and other american crops into China had a mega environmental impact comparable to that of the Mayas in Central America (i.e. deforestation massive soil erosion, soil exhaustion, by the mid 16th century). There is a good PhD thesis on this at Australian National University, which I have just examined and could send details of if anyone is interested. But.....CUP have a book in press edited by Mark Elvin entitled "Essays on the environmental History of China" with 30m chapters which shoudl be interesting reading in 1997(?) It has already come out in Chinese for those who can read Chinese.


Richard Grove

2.) There is a lot of work on British colonial forestry policy in India, its impact on local communities, and resistance to colonial schemes. A few authors that come to mind -- Madhav Gadgil, Ramachandra Guha, Richard Tucker, Richard Grove. The first two I know have written articles in Past and Present and the Economic and Political Weekly. I'll get the exact references for you when I have the chance.


Jacob Tropp
University of Minnesota

3.) From: Charles Raymond Katz <>

I believe that Eugene Irschick, _Dialogue and History: Constructing South India_ (1994) will have some material of interest to both of you.

Charlie Katz
History, UC Berkeley

4.) From: "S. Ravi Rajan" <>

I have a syllabus for a comparative environmental history course I taught last year examining the literature that exists on India and Southern Africa. I'd be happy to e-mail this to anyone on this net.

Regards, R.

S. Ravi Rajan
Geography, 501, McCone Hall, University of California, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA.
Phone: 510 642 0380 (o); 642 3903 (messages); 236 9998 (home)
Fax: 510 642 3370; E-Mail:

5.) From: John Archer <>

Here's two sources that should have promising leads:

Arnold, David, ed. _Imperial Medicine and Indigenous Societies_. (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1988).

Arnold, David. _Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India_ (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

John Archer / / 612-624-3830 /
Director of Graduate Studies: Comparative Studies in Discourse & Society /
Director of Graduate Studies: Comparative Literature /
Department of Cultural Studies & Comparative Literature / 350 Folwell Hall /
University of Minnesota / Minneapolis, MN 55455 /

6.) From: "Dennis Williams, Southern Nazarene U." <DWILLIAM@SNU.EDU> Laxman Satya and Cynthia Miller, and any others doing similar research--

I'd like to mention that this is just the sort of work I'd like to feature in papers for the conference on Multicultural Perspectives on Environmental Writing, coming up at State University of New York, College at Oneonta, on June 22-25. Deadline for papers is March 1, and I'd love to receive proposals on your work on India--or similar work in other parts of the world. With best regards,

Charlotte Zoe Walker, English Dept., SUNY Oneonta, Oneonta, NY 13820

p.s. If you send me your address, I can send you the call for papers by regular mail. Thanks!

Ed. note: Some of the titles above are incomplete or incorrect. I have assembled a small provisional bibliography for those titles which have been published.


Title: Changing Pacific forests : historical perspectives on the forest economy of the Pacific basin : proceedings of a conference sponsored by the Forest History Society and IUFRO Forest History Group / edited by John Dargavel & Richard Tucker.
Pub. Info.: Durham, N.C. : The Society, 1992.
Phy Descript: vii, 156 p.
ISBN: 082231262X :. 0822312638 :.
LCCN: 92025130.
Author: Crosby, Alfred W.
Title: Ecological imperialism : the biological expansion of Europe, 900-1900
Pub. Info.: Cambridge; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1986.
Phy Descript: xiv, 368 p., [16] p.
Series Info.: Studies in environment and history.
ISBN: 0521320097. 0521336139 (pbk.).
LCCN: 86006106.
Author: Gadgil, Madhav, Guha Ramachandra
Title: This fissured land : an ecological history of India
Pub. Info.: Berkeley : University of California Press, 1993.
Phy Descript: xiv, 274 p.
ISBN: 0520076214 (alk. paper). 0520082966 (pbk. : alk. paper).
LCCN: 92029904.
Title: Nature, culture, imperialism : essays on the environmental history of South Asia / edited by David Arnold and Ramachandra Guha.
Pub. Info.: Delhi ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1995.
Phy Descript: xi, 376 p.
Series Info.: Studies in social ecology and environmental history.
ISBN: 0195634284.
LCCN: 95903634.
Title: Social ecology / edited by Ramachandra Guha.
Pub. Info.: Delhi ; New York : Oxford University Press, 1994.
Phy Descript: x, 398 p.
Series Info.: Oxford in India readings in sociology and social anthropology.
ISBN: 0195631137.
LCCN: gb 94061336.
Author: Guha, Ramachandra.
Title: The unquiet woods : ecological change and peasant resistance in the Himalaya
Pub. Info.: Berkeley : University of California Press, 1990.
Phy Descript: 214 p.
ISBN: 0520065018 (alk. paper).
LCCN: 89020321.
Author: Guha, Ramachandra.
Title: Commercial forestry and social conflict in the Indian Himalaya
Pub. Info.: [Berkeley, Calif. : University of California's Dept. of Forestry and Resource Management, 1986].
Phy Descript: 12 p. ; 22 cm.
Notes: Sponsored by: University of California's Dept. of Forestry and Resource Management; Institute of International Studies; Center for South and Southeast Asia Studies.
Series Info.: Forestry for development lecture series.
Title: Global deforestation and the nineteenth-century world economy / edited by Richard P. Tucker and J.F. Richards.
Pub. Info.: Durham, NC : Duke University Press, 1983.
Phy Descript: xviii, 210 p.
Series Info.: Duke Press policy studies.
ISBN: 0822304821 :.
LCCN: 82018273.
Author: Grove, Richard (Richard H.)
Title: Green imperialism : colonial expansion, tropical island Edens, and the origins of environmentalism, 1600-1860
Pub. Info.: Cambridge; New York : Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Phy Descript: xiv, 540 p.
Series Info.: Studies in environment and history.
ISBN: 0521403855 (hardback).
LCCN: 93028654.
Author: MacKenzie, John M.
Title: The empire of nature : hunting, conservation, and British imperialism
Pub. Info.: Manchester ; New York : Manchester University Press, c1988.
Phy Descript: 340 p.
ISBN: 0719022274 :.
LCCN: 88005301.
Author: MacKenzie, John M.
Title: Imperialism and the natural world / edited by John M MacKenzie.
Pub. Info.: Manchester, UK ; New York : Manchester University Press ; New York, NY, USA : Distributed in the USA and Canada by St. Martin's Press, c1990.
Phy Descript: 216 p.
ISBN: 0719029007.
LCCN: 89013331.
Title: World deforestation in the twentieth century / edited by John F. Richards and Richard P. Tucker.
Pub. Info.: Durham, N.C. : Duke University Press, 1988.
Phy Descript: 321 p.
Series Info.: Duke Press policy studies.
ISBN: 0822307847.
LCCN: 87031953.
Author: Zimmermann, Francis.
Title: The jungle and the aroma of meats : an ecological theme in Hindu medicine
Pub. Info.: Berkeley : University of California Press, c1987.
Phy Descript: xiii, 254 p.
Notes: Translation of: La jungle et le fumet des viandes.
Series Info.: Comparative studies of health systems and medical care ; no. 20.
ISBN: 0520059358 (alk. paper) 0520053950 (jacket).
LCCN: 87010820.

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