Lehre Wintersemester 2018/2019

Nature, Science & Empire in Colonial India

Seminar: Winter Semester 2018-2019
Donnerstags 12-14 Uhr
Ort: Arnold Bode str. 2 /Raum 0402

This seminar aims at understanding the interface of nature, animals and modern science in colonial India (1850-1950). Environmental histories of India document the drastic impact of imperialism on the governance of forests, land and water in colonial India. Studies on agriculture, forestry, irrigation and railways abound. A related and established field of research interrogates the relationship of modern science and colonialism from a post-colonial or subaltern studies perspective. This seminar positions itself within these wider fields by drawing upon the growing field of research that focuses on bodies, both animal and human. We will discuss the making of the classifications of race and species; the intersection of commerce and domestic animals, the evolution of veterinary science and breeding of working animals and the making of knowledge and products along with animals. We will follow the careers of selected scientists, cattle breeds and diseases while also drawing upon the history of medicine and public health. This introductory seminar will impart fundamental knowledge of Indian society and Indian colonial history.


  1. Dieses seminar ist nur in English Bitte.
  2. Each student is required to read one text every week.

Learning Goals

  • To understand Indian society and the British Empire (1850-1950).
  • To think with key concepts and theories of colonial science
  • To examine the interface of environment, science and empire from the vantage point of bodies, of different humans and animals.


  • Benjamin Zachariah. 2001. Uses of Scientific Argument: The Case of 'Development' in India, c 1930-1950. Economic and Political Weekly 36 (39): 3689-3702.
  • Bernard S. Cohn. 1996. Colonialism and Its Forms of Knowledge: The British In India. Princeton University Press.
  • David Arnold. 2008. Plant Capitalism and Company Science: The Indian Career of Nathaniel Wallich. Modern Asian Studies 42 (5): 899-928.
  • David Gilmartin.1994. Scientific Empire and Imperial Science: Colonialism and Irrigation Technology in the Indus Basin. The Journal of Asian Studies 53 (4): 1127-1149.
  • Deepak Kumar. 2006. Science and the Raj: A Study of British India. Oxford. selections.
  • Gyan Prakash. 1992. Science "Gone Native" in Colonial India. Representations 40 (Special Issue: Seeing Science):153-178.
  • Irfan Habib and Dhruv Raina. 2007. Social History of Science in Colonial India. Oxford University Press. Selections.
  • Jonathan Saha. 2017. Colonizing elephants: animal agency, undead capital and imperial science in British Burma. British Journal for the History of Science. 2: 169-189.
  • Kapil Raj. 2007. Relocating Modern Science. Palgrave Macmillan.
  • Mahesh Rangarajan. 2012. Environment and Ecology under British Rule. in Douglas M. Peers and Nandini Gooptu (eds.) India and the British Empire. Oxford University Press.
  • Lachlan Fleetwood. 2017. "No former travellers having attained such a height on the Earth's surface": Instruments, inscriptions, and bodies in the Himalaya, 1800-1830. History of Science 56 (1): 3-34.
  • Londa L Schiebinger and Claudia Swan (eds.).2005. Colonial Botany: Science, Commerce, and Politics in the Early Modern World. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Mark Harrison. 2005. Science and the British Empire. Isis 96 (1):56-63.
  • Pratik Chakrabarty. 2010. Beasts of Burden: Animal and Laboratory Research in Colonial India. History of Science; an annual review of literature, research and teaching 48(2):125-152.
  • Ramachandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil. 1989. State Forestry and Social Conflict in British India. Past and Present 123 (4): 141-177.
  • Rohan Deb Roy. 2013. Quinine Mosquitoes and Empire: Reassembling Malaria in British India. South Asian History and Culture 4 (1): 65-86.
  • Samiparna Samanta. 2014. 'Dealing with Disease: Epizootics, Veterinarians and Public Health in Colonial Bengal, 1850-1920', In Poonam Bala (ed). Medicine and Colonialism : historical perspectives in India and South Africa. pp. 61-74.
  • Saurabh Mishra. 2012. The Economics of Reproduction: Horse-breeding in early colonial India, 1790-1840. Modern Asian Studies. 46 (5):1116-1144.
  • Shiv Vishvanathan.1997. Carnival for Science Essays on Science, Technology and Development. Delhi: Oxford University Press.
  • Sujit Sivasundaram. 2011. Islanded: Natural History in the British Colonization of Ceylon. In Geographies of Nineteenth Century Science, edited by David N. Livingstone and Charles W. J. Withers, 123-48. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  • Ulrike Kirchberger. 2001. German scientists in the Indian forest service: A German contribution to the Raj? The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History 29(2):1-26.
  • Zaheer Baber. 2016. The Plants of Empire: Botanic Gardens, Colonial Power and Botanical Knowledge. Journal of Contemporary Asia 46 (4):659-679.