Centre for World Environmental History

Workshop on the East India Company and the Natural World 2

Wednesday 18th of June, 2008 at 10:30 am until 5:00 pm
Location: Arts A155, University of Sussex


Between 1600 and 1900, the British Empire brought about an unprecedented transformation of landscapes and environments across the world. It can be argued, that the British Empire produced the first modern globalised economic and political system. However, what remains, inadequately scrutinised and poorly understood, is how and through what means the empire assembled this vast and overwhelming global reach; its knowledge networks, its comprehension and interventions in diverse ecologies, its engagements with indigenous traditions and its innumerable economic and political information pathways that shaped and sustained imperial dominance.

This workshop, as a follow up to its previous workshop last year in June 2007, will bring together scholars who are attempting to understand the British Empire both as a globalising force in general and as agent for profound environmental change in particular. The emphasis has been directed at refocusing attention on the activities of the East India Company (EIC), which, in several ways, developed, fine tuned and set in motion organisational elements and knowledge networks that ultimately gave the British Empire its modern global impetus.

Exploring the EIC involves a reconsideration of the role of private individuals, botanists, Company bureaucrats, naturalists, travellers and scientific services, who carefully and exhaustively documented their earliest observations on transformations of landscapes and environments on a global scale. The East India Company was critical to shaping the British Empire's environmental legacy, by setting out the templates for organising botanic gardens, forest bureaucracies, hydraulic interventions, soil conservation schemes, game parks, flood control measures and so on. These institutional networks, bureaucracies and areas of expertise continue to inform and direct several processes of contemporary globalisation. This meeting will attempt a reconsideration of the environmental legacies of the British Empire through a renewed emphasis on understanding the relationships between the EIC and the natural world. We aim to have sessions on the East India Company and botanic gardens; deforestation and conservation; and irrigation and flood control. Workshop participants include Mark Harrison and Alan Lester. Please let us know if you want to attend this workshop as there will be a small registration fee.

Dr Vinita Damodaran (v.damodaran@sussex.ac.uk)

Dr Rohan D'souza (rohanxdsouza@gmail.com)