The East India Company and the Natural World is the first work to explore the deep and lasting impacts of the largest colonial trading company, the British East India Company, on the natural environment. The EIC both contributed to and recorded environmental change during the first era of globalization. From the small island of St Helena in the South Atlantic, the Indian subcontinent and Southeast Asia, and as far off as New Zealand, the Company presence profoundly altered the environment by introducing plants and animals, felling forests, and redirecting rivers.
The threats of famine and disease encouraged experiments with agriculture and the recording of the virtues of medicinal plants. The EIC records of the weather, the soils, and the flora provide modern climate scientists with invaluable data. The contributors – drawn from a wide range of academic disciplines – use the lens of the Company to illuminate the relationship between colonial capital and the changing environment between 1600 and 1857.
Preface; Anna Winterbottom
Introduction: New Imperial and Environmental Histories of the Indian Ocean; Alan Lester
1. Botanical Explorations and the East India Company: Revisiting Plant Colonialism; Deepak Kumar
2. Botanical and Medical Networks of Madras, 1680-1720; Anna Winterbottom
3. Robert Wright and his European Collaborators; Henry Noltie
4. The East India Company, Famine and Ecological Conditions in Eighteenth Century Bengal; Vinita Damodaran
5. The Climate of Bombay from 1799-1828 from Four Colonial Weather Diaries; George Adamson
6. Mischievous Rivers and Evil Shoals: The English East India Company and the Colonial Resource Regime; Rohan D'Souza
7. The Rafflesia in the Natural and Imperial Imagination of the East India Company in Southeast Asia; Timothy P. Barnard
8. 'A proper set of views': The British East India Company and the Visualization of South-East Asia in the Late Eighteenth Century; Geoff Quilley
9. Malay-Indonesian Materia Medica and Trans-Cultural Encounters; Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells
10. ''Units…of our mighty Indian Empire': New Zealand/Indian Biological and Landscape Exchanges, 1830s-1890s'; James Beattie
11. St Helena as a Microcosm of the East India Company World; Dick Grove
Afterword; Vinita Damodaran
Vinita Damodaran is Director of the Centre for World Environmental History and Senior lecturer in the department of History at the University of Sussex, UK. Her expertise is on the indigenous communities and the environmental history of Eastern India. She has published numerous books and articles including co-editing Nature and the Orient; the Environmental history of South and South East Asia (1998) and The British Empire and the Natural World: Environmental encounters in South Asia (2011).
Anna Winterbottom is currently a Research Fellow at the University of Sussex, UK, where she is working on a project on the history of medicine and healing in the Indian Ocean world. She previously worked at McGill University, where she remains an associate of the Indian Ocean World Centre. She has published several articles and book chapters on the East India Company and the history of science and medicine.
Alan Lester is Professor of Historical Geography at the University of Sussex, UK. He is the author of Imperial Networks: Creating Identities in Nineteenth Century South Africa and Britain (2001); co-editor of Colonial Lives Across the British Empire: Imperial Careering in the Long Nineteenth Century (2006) and co-author of Colonization and the Origins of Humanitarian Governance: Protecting Aborigines Across the Nineteenth Century British Empire (2014).
- George Adamson, King's College London, UK
- Timothy P. Barnard, National University of Singapore
- James Beattie, University of Waikato, New Zealand
- A.T. Grove, independent scholar, UK
- Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells, National University of Singapore
- Deepak Kumar, Jawaharlal Nehru University, India
- Henry Noltie, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, UK
- Rohan d'Souza, Shiv Nadar University, UK
- Geoff Quilley, University of Sussex, UK