A New Publication

Two friends once commented on how in academia it’s easy to forget to celebrate accomplishments. Take publications: you spent a long time writing something, reading reviewers’ comments, re-researching and re-writing it, possibly going through another round of the same, and then finally getting notice that it will be published several months or perhaps more than a year later. So when it finally appears in print, you sort of forget that it’s something to celebrate! 

So consider this a celebratory post for an article recently published in the Journal of the History of Ideas. It presents a re-reading of the some colonial British accounts as environmentalist (rather than anti-environmentalist as they’re often assumed to be). Below is the relevant information (and a link). And if you can’t access it without paying a fee, do feel free to email me (tiffanyatsao at gmail dot com) and I can send you a copy.

Tsao, Tiffany. “Environmentalism and Civilizational Development in the Colonial British Histories of the Indian Archipelago (1783–1820).” Journal of the History of Ideas 74.3 (2013): 449-471. 

Abstract: This article argues that the British Histories of the Indian Archipelago written by William Marsden, Thomas Stamford Raffles, and John Crawfurd can be read as documents advocating better care and protection of the natural environment in the region. Extant scholarship has tended to discourage such a reading, although the writers express many beliefs and sentiments that suggest their ascription to what have been identified as early environmentalist views. The environmentalism of the Histories, however, rests on the belief that human cultivation was necessary for nature’s well being—a belief now seen as antithetical to the values of modern-day environmentalism. 



  1. Congratulations Tiff! Have you read Wendell Berry’s essays? I remember one in which he describes the way in which the U.S. environmentalist movement (describing it in the 70s) looked to “nature” as something pristine and abstract, rather than productive and integrally related to human life. The result, I think he argued, was that rather than think broadly in terms of sustaining rural life and relating farming and the natural world, environmentalists just tried to preserve the “forests” or other “natural” environments. It made me think of your article, which I hope I will get to read soon.

    1. Hey, interesting! I haven’t read Wendell Berry, but one of the reviewers for the article recommended an essay by William Cronon on the same problem (which is how it became one of the sources cited in this piece). You can find it here: http://www.williamcronon.net/writing/Trouble_with_Wilderness_Main.html

      So many human beings and so many overlapping ideas! I’ll try to take a look at Wendell Berry’s work. Thanks for the recommendation! 🙂

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