Academic
Publications
Calcutta Botanic Garden and the colonial re-ordering of the Indian environment

Calcutta Botanic Garden and the colonial re-ordering of the Indian environment,10.3366/E0260954108000144,Archives of Natural History,RICHARD AXELBY

Calcutta Botanic Garden and the colonial re-ordering of the Indian environment  
BibTex | RIS | RefWorks Download
This article examines three hand-painted colour maps that accompanied the annual report of the Calcutta Botanic Garden for 1846 to illustrate how the Garden's layout, uses and functions had changed over the previous 30 years. The evolution of the Calcutta Botanic Garden in the first half of the nineteenth-century reflects a wider shift in attitudes regarding the relationship between science, empire and the natural world. On a more human level the maps result from, and illustrate, the development of a vicious personal feud between the two eminent colonial botanists charged with superintending the garden in the 1840s. BOTANY AND EMPIRE Today Calcutta's botanic garden is a haven of peace - a green sanctuary from the pollution and noise of the city. But the tranquillity of the contemporary garden belies the dramatic origins of the institution and the passions that arose around plant collecting in the early part of the nineteenth-century. Two hundred years ago the identification and classification of plants was at the forefront of scientific enquiry. Underpinning botanical science's pre- eminence was the extension of European power around the world: the activities of plant collectors were intimately tied into colonial expansion, facilitating rule practically and ideologically. In India those who practised botany could find themselves implicated in political intrigue and environmental espionage. Gardens of science were also the nurseries of Empire. This paper examines three maps intended to accompany the annual report of the Calcutta Botanic Garden for 1846 and illustrating the contemporary arrangement of the garden in contrast to 1816 and 1843. At a scale of two inches to one furlong (1 : 3960), the maps show how the layout, uses and utility of the garden was altered over a 30-year period. From a wider perspective the maps demonstrate the significant developments that occurred in the relationship between science, state and environment over the first half of the nineteenth- century. Finally, on a more human level, these maps result from, and illustrate, a vicious feud between two eminent men of science. Nathaniel Wallich and William Griffith shared a genius for botany. Separated in age by 24 years, these two giants in the history of colonial science held different ideas about nature and about how the world around them should be ordered. In their respective (and overlapping) tenures as superintendents of the Calcutta garden, Wallich and Griffith personify the shifts taking place in the relationship between botany and empire and the conflicts occurring at the heart of colonial science. Plant collecting in nineteenth-century India could be a dangerous business. The argument between
Journal: Archives of Natural History , vol. 35, no. 1, pp. 150-163, 2008
Cumulative Annual
View Publication
The following links allow you to view full publications. These links are maintained by other sources not affiliated with Microsoft Academic Search.