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Cultivating the Colonies

Colonial States and their Environmental Legacies

Christina Folke Ax

Publication Year: 2011

 The essays collected in Cultivating the Colonies demonstrate how the relationship between colonial power and nature reveals the nature of power. Each essay explores how colonial governments translated ideas about the management of exotic nature and foreign people into practice, and how they literally “got their hands dirty” in the business of empire. 

 The eleven essays include studies of animal husbandry in the Philippines, farming in Indochina, and indigenous medicine in India. They are global in scope, ranging from the Russian North to Mozambique, examining the consequences of colonialism on nature, including its impact on animals, fisheries, farmlands, medical practices, and even the diets of indigenous people. 

 Cultivating the Colonies establishes beyond all possible doubt the importance of the environment as a locus for studying the power of the colonial state.

Published by: Ohio University Press

Title Page / Copyright Page

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pp. vii-ix


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pp. xi

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pp. xiii-xiv

Cultivating the Colonies: Colonial States and their Environmental Legacies is a selection of papers presented in a conference held in one of the global centers of power (as least as far as environmental history is concerned): the German Historical Institute, Washington D.C. We would like to thank the Institute for support, and especially its former director, Christof Mauch, who promoted the...

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Introduction: Getting Our Hands Dirty

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pp. 1-16

One of the chief aims of this volume is to address one of the most persistent and troublesome questions in colonial studies, namely, what specifically is colonial about the colonial state? What distinguishes its actions from those of other states? How does power change in the process of being exported overseas? This question...

Part 1: Perceiving the Colonial Environment

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1. The Prospective Colonist and Strange Environments: Advice on Health and Prosperity

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pp. 19-46

Prosperity and health were, if we believe the literature produced for potential settlers, on the wish list of anyone who was thinking of migrating and settling in strange new environments. This conjunction of wealth and health, usually ignored by historians of medicine, lasted across the whole period of British colonization. If a colony was to survive, both wealth (or at least a prosperous...

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2. Carved Out of Nature: Identity and Environment in German Colonial Africa

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pp. 47-77

An inhabitant of German Southwest Africa composed these lines to the melody of the patriotic song “Lied der Deutschen” at the beginning of the twentieth century. It functioned for several decades as an unofficial hymn of the colony and was used by the remaining Germans there after the First World War as their...

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3. The Science of Nature and the Nature of Science in the Spanish and American Philippines

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pp. 78-108

When Americans occupied the Philippines in 1898, they began the persistent propagation of a second leyenda negra about their colonial predecessors. Rather than depicting the conquest of the New World in lurid and exaggerated details that stressed Spanish brutality as sixteenth-century French and English authors had, this second black legend was a more measured, scientifically...

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4. Aerial Photography and Colonial Discourse on the Agricultural Crisis in Late-Colonial Indochina, 1930–1945

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pp. 109-132

From 1880 to 1930, the French colonial government in Indochina supported rapid canalization and settlement in the recently cleared forests and marshes of the Mekong Delta (see map 4.1). The region’s population increased fourfold in that era to more than four million persons, and the area of land put under cultivation...

Part 2: Managing the Colonial Environment

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5. Wetland Colonies: Louisiana, Guangzhou, Pondicherry, and Senegal

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pp. 135-163

In 1715 and 1716 Antoine Crozat, director of the French colony of Louisiana, drafted several reports for his investors in France, in which he described the natural environment of the lower Mississippi Valley, detailing its prospects for profitable enterprise and trade. ...

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6. Colonization of the Russian North: A Frozen Frontier

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pp. 164-190

According to well-known Russian historian Vasilii Kliuchevskii (1956, 31), Russia’s entire history is the history of a country that colonizes itself.1 In contrast to colonization of the southern and eastern parts of the Russian Empire, which continued as late as the end of the nineteenth century,2 the frontier movement in the North...

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7. Recasting Disease and Its Environment: Indigenous Medical Practitioners, the Plague, and Politics in Colonial India, 1898–1910

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pp. 191-213

The plague arrived in North India in 1897, after being contained near the presidencies of Bombay and Bengal in western and eastern India where it had arrived earlier. In the early years, plague mortality in India had already touched 354,000 deaths, and between 1903 and 1907 there were a further 4.5 million deaths, half of which...

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8. Changing Times, Changing Palates: The Dietary Impacts of Basuto Adaptation to New Rulers, Crops, and Markets, 1830s–1966

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pp. 214-236

Beyond nutrition, mainstream Southern African historiography has paid very little attention to the history of food consumption in the region. When historians do venture into this area, food consumption patterns are generally treated as interesting by-products of the well-covered field of food production in the region. The history of foodways has also failed to capture the attention of...

Part 3: The Legacy of Colonialism

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9. State Rationality, Development, and the Making of State Territory: From Colonial Extraction to Postcolonial Conservation in Southern Mozambique

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pp. 239-274

On December 9, 2002, the governments of Mozambique, South Africa, and Zimbabwe launched the 3.5-million-hectare Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park (GLTP), creating one of the world’s most expansive conservation spaces (see map 9.1).1 The GLTP has drawn the world’s attention to a little-known area of Mozambique...

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10. Ecological Communication at the Oxford Imperial Forestry Institute

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pp. 275-299

In 1950 Princess Margaret opened with pomp and circumstance the new building housing the Imperial Forestry Institute at Oxford University. “Long before the Royal car was due,” the local newspaper reported, “great crowds, in which women and children predominated, gathered at vantage points to get...

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11. Colonial Experts, Developmental and Environmental Doctrines, and the Legacies of Late British Colonialism

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pp. 300-326

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa as well as other regions of the world, from the Caribbean to Southeast Asia, a new kind of authoritarian social engineering and state intervention directed at agrarian societies was embarked on by European colonial regimes in the 1940s and 1950s, which found its most definitive form in the implementation of numerous land settlement...


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pp. 327-330


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pp. 331-337

E-ISBN-13: 9780896804791
Print-ISBN-13: 9780896802827

Publication Year: 2011