Environmentalism and Civilization – Journal of the History of Ideas, 2013

“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.

“…because studies have often read these British histories as accounts written with effective natural resource exploitation in mind, they have tended to overlook the aspects of the histories that exhibit a concern for preserving and maintaining the well-being of the natural world of the archipelago, a concern that aligns with what we might understand as an environmentalist consciousness.

This article makes a case for reading these histories as documents advocating the reform of the unsound management of the natural world of the archipelago, condemning the irresponsible and exploitative practices at work in the region, and making recommendations about what would constitute better stewardship of nature. In what follows, I will look at some of the reasons why the environmentalism of the histories has gone unidentified thus far, and show how several of their features strongly suggest an alignment with attitudes and beliefs that environmental historians have linked with early environmentalist sentiments. I will then examine how the three texts placed especial emphasis on caring for the land and its flora and fauna in a way that would allow them to achieve their fullest health and luxuriance, and I will discuss the measures they proposed to achieve this.”

Read the rest.