Thesis ID: CBB001560654

To Fashion a Fauna for British India (2011)


Mathew, John (Author)

Browne, E. Janet
Harvard University
Browne, E. Janet
Mendelsohn, Everett

Publication Date: 2011
Edition Details: Advisors: Browne, Janet; Everett Mendelsohn
Physical Details: 415 pp.
Language: English

This thesis examines the development of taxonomic zoology in India between the late eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries, coincident with British colonisation of the region. In so doing it draws into question conventional dyads of colonising and colonised nations, with the vectors of influence deterministic in one direction by suggesting that the flow of information was in fact reciprocal, if asymmetrical. Central to my argument is the 'translocate', a term I have coined (drawing on classical cytogenetics), a specialist expatriate whose long years in the area of colonisation renders him dually authorized to speak for it, both to the 'native' voice as well as to the distant expert who has never laid eyes on the region in question. While early natural history studies of the region involve French 'voyageurs-naturalistes' who come for relatively brief periods to the Indian subcontinent as part of larger expeditions to return material to the central dispatching body, 'Le Museum National d'Histoire Naturelle', thus contributing to France's domination in the field during the early nineteenth century, it is functionaries from or working for Great Britain, first employees of the East India Company and after the Great Mutiny of the 1857, of the Crown, that come to dominate the study of the increasingly specialised disciplines of zoology, botany and geology over the following century, in the main, however, depending upon their knowledge of the ground under study at first hand. The translocate will continue to play a pivotal role in writing the zoological treatises of South Asia; however, along with the metropolitan taxonomist in London, the voice of the 'native' gets belatedly recognised in the twentieth century in a complex and involved series of taxonomic texts grouped under the heading The Fauna of British India even as the region under thrall makes its own concerted bid for independence, an ultimately successful effort that will lead to the formation of the independent nations of India and Pakistan.


Description “Examines the development of taxonomic zoology in India between the late eighteenth and mid-twentieth centuries.” (from the abstract) Cited in ProQuest Diss. & Thes. . ProQuest Doc. ID 915016862.

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Authors & Contributors
Nair, Savithri Preetha
Lowther, David
Van Neste, Aaron
William Dalrymple
Olivia Fraser
Wald, Erica
Archives of Natural History
Science in Context
Journal of Astronomical History and Heritage
Iranian Studies
Indian Journal of History of Science
History of Science
University of Chicago Press
Palgrave Macmillan
Oxford University Press
Lexington Books
Great Britain, colonies
Cross-cultural interaction; cultural influence
India, civilization and culture
Hardwicke, Thomas
Vaughan, Thomas
Revelle, Roger
Mayor, Alfred Goldsborough
Lyell, Charles
Forster, Johann Reinhold
Time Periods
19th century
18th century
20th century
20th century, early
Early modern
Great Britain
South Asia
Istanbul (Turkey)
British East India Company
East India Company (English)
American Museum of Natural History, New York

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