The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze
India, Landscape, and Science, 1800-1856
- Published: 2006
- Subject Listing: Asian Studies, Environmental History
- Bibliographic information: 312 pp., 8 illus., 6 x 9 in.
- Territorial rights: World rights except South Asia (India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, and Nepal)
- Series: Culture, Place, and Nature
“This is a book about land. It is about a land - about India and how that vast and diverse region came to be known to, and conceptualized by, British and other European travelers and observers in the first half of the nineteenth century. But it is also a book about the land, about the ways in which India’s material environment became increasingly subject to the colonial understanding of landscape and nature, and to the scientific scrutiny of itinerant naturalists. . . . [It] is concerned with European responses to an unfamiliar landscape, about the land as an object of colonial fear and desire, utility and aesthetics. It seeks to show how India, in passing under British control, was evaluated in ways that combined scenic delight and practical opportunity with a harsher appraisal of India as a land of death and disease, of desolation and deficiency.” - from the Introduction
The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze considers the European representation and understanding of landscape and nature in early nineteenth-century India. It draws on travel narratives, literary texts, and scientific literature to show the diversity of European (especially British) responses to the Indian environment and the ways in which these contributed to the wider colonizing process. Through its close examination of the correlation between tropicality and “otherness,” and of science as a means of colonial appropriation, the book offers a new interpretation of the history of colonial India and a critical contribution to the understanding of environmental history and the tropical world. It will be of interest to historians of the environment, science, and colonialism; South Asianists; and cultural and environmental anthropologists and geographers.
David Arnold is professor of the history of South Asia at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. He is the author of a number of books, including Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India and The Problem of Nature: Environment, Culture, and European Expansion.
“The Tropics and the Traveling Gaze is an insightful study of the changing ways Britons (and other Europeans) responded to and described India during the first half of the nineteenth century. The author’s interpretations are original and challenging, and the fine research and extensive reference notes make Arnold’s argument convincing.” - Michael H. Fisher, Robert S. Danforth Professor of History, Oberlin College
“This book will become a valuable text in the field of environmental humanities, as well as for students of postcolonial literature and for the wide field of cultural studies. The elegant narrative is written in a clear and lucid style, sprinkled with wry and understated humor, and sensitive to the personal tragedies of many of the travelers through whose perspectives David Arnold evokes nineteenth-century Indian landscapes.” - K. Sivaramakrishnan, University of Washington
“Arnold’s discussion of the relationship between botanizing nature and travelers’ perceptions is a new and thoughtful reworking of some well-known and some relatively untapped sources. For anyone with an interest in the issues of colonial knowledges, imperial projects, and the natural world.” - Mahesh Rangarajan, author of India’s Wildlife History: An Introduction