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Overall I think Gunnels book was interesting. I get the impression that the book is mostly about the British Empire and its expansion in India. Gunnel said at the discussion seminar that it´s good to start with the answer and work from that. In this case the British Empire is the answer. During the book you can learn about how the empire tried to find trade routes and connect with locals so the empire could gain as much profit and influence. Instead of direct rule, the empire tried to gain influence/power/profit by indirect ruling (Cederlöf, 2013: discussion seminar).
Due to the focus on the British Empire I experience that I gain lots of knowledge about the empire. The environment is there, in the background throughout the book, but the main actor is the empire. You get to read about land and sea routes as the Silk Road, how coins differed in materials, how the monsoon was important to have knowledge about and different tool and artwork materials among many things (Cederlöf, 2013:45-47). It´s a general understanding on how crucial nature and it´s resources were to the people living there and to the merchants operating in different areas. India is a large country, so it’s important to see the differences, and what kind of resources and landscape there are at specific places. For example, Bengal had a large network with different trade routs to marketplaces and to different water routes. (Cederlöf, 2013:46).
India’s eastern frontiers were important to understand from “ecological and political terms”. For example, the areas forests needed to be cut and maintained due to trade. The forest and it´s wildlife would grow back and make trading routes harder to use otherwise (Cederlöf, 2013:2). Without knowledge about surrounding environments there would be no profit gains for merchants. An ecological understanding is in best interest when entering new landscapes. The monsoon climate, for sure, was necessary to gain knowledge about. Knowing when and how the monsoon came made travels and trade easier (Cederlöf, 2013:3). There was this climate cycle to learn. I see the connection with nature and the importance to learn how nature works when it comes to imperial conquest. Probably the right ways to gain power in these areas are by indirect ruling and take advantage of local rulers, knowledge and long traditions.
Reply To: 1. Mon 3 Feb: Course intro & India and the Environmental History of Imperialism
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