conservation, exploitation, and cultural CHANGE IN THE INDIAN FOREST SERVICE, 1875–1927


Although the Indian Forest Service was founded on conservationist principles, by the twentieth century it had become almost exclusively devoted to profitable exploitation of the forests it managed. Quantitative content analysis of the service’s primary voice, The Indian Forester, correlates the transition from conservation to extraction to shifts from the dominance of generalists to that of bureaucratic specialists, and from ad-hoc holism to reductionism. Growing emphasis on reductionist science reinforced a mental framework inimical to conservationist arguments based on indirect benefits and appeals to precaution. In the broader culture, these arguments resurfaced in reaction to periodic famines, but by the beginning of the twentieth century, they had lost respectability within the Forest Service.

INDIA TODAY FACES the interrelated problems of Himalayan deforestation, soil erosion and salinity, dam siltation, flash floods, and biodiversity loss. The government agencies responsible for solving these problems—and, as some would argue, for causing them—are the direct descendants of the environmental management agencies that came into being under British rule. Chief among these agencies is the Indian Forest Service. Since most of India’s environmental problems are far worse now than they were a century and a half ago, it seems logical to seek the roots of the current crisis in the development of the Forest Service. The history of the Forest Service resonates globally because the forest bureaucracies of the rest of the former British Empire and much of the anglophone world have their roots in India.

This essay traces the trajectory of several self-reinforcing transitions in the culture of the Forest Service: from a conservationist to an extractive focus, from a dominance by generalists to that of bureaucratic specialists, and from an ad hoc holism to reductionism. I am not concerned with “ideas of nature” per se. Rather, I focus on ideas and cultural attitudes toward science and technology, and more specifically toward scientists and engineers. Certainly all ideas about science and technology reveal attitudes toward nature, but it was not on the basis of wilderness values that the conservationists of the mid-nineteenth century British Raj made their case.

The environmental managers of British India created a bureaucratic and segmented mental landscape and they set about restructuring the physical landscape to match it. This progressed slowly but inexorably, as a new generation of specialists replaced an older generation of generalists, as a narrow reductionist scientific approach pushed aside local, qualitative, experienced knowledge, and as an extraction and engineering mentality replaced conservationism as a mode for managing the colonial South Asian environment. The philosophical perspectives that informed the conservationist arguments of the mid-nineteenth century included the Utilitarian idea that the commons must be maintained to benefit the greatest number of people over the longest period of time while minimizing the harms of forest exploitation to people downstream, the precautionary principle, and an emotional and aesthetic appreciation and respect for “nature.”[1] However, the arguments based on these philosophical perspectives declined in effectiveness and respectability as an engineering paradigm ascended within the culture of the Forest Service. This trend coincided with a shift in departmental purpose away from conservation-oriented activity to extractive and commercial activity.

An important debate in Indian environmental historiography has to do with the nature and purpose of state forest conservation in India. One group of scholars suggests that forest conservation was meant to conceal the real considerations of the British Empire’s need for raw materials and to justify the expropriation of forests from “traditional” forest users in order to more fully exploit the forests.[2] The most prominent representative of this position has been Ramachandra Guha, who focuses his analysis on the battle over the Indian Forest Act of 1878, in which the “annexationists” defeated the “populists” and thus gave the state greater control over forest management. Combining selections from the “annexationist” arguments, evidence of the Empire’s material needs, and an assumption of greater sustainability of pre-colonial resource use, Guha presents a picture of the Forest Service as primarily devoted to exploitation and expropriation.[3] Another group of scholars—chief among them Richard Grove—argues that the conservationist motives that informed the creation of the Forest Service were genuine, and that the roots of modern environmentalism lie in the colonial experience.[4] Grove argues that the ideas behind state forest conservation developed through the interaction of the European and Indian ideas and local experience. Environmental concerns about deforestation-induced climate change originated in the seventeenth century colonial experiences: examples of rapid destruction in fragile island environments motivated conservationists who exploited governmental fears of environmental devastation to promote the establishment of the Forest Department.[5] I will show why Grove’s analysis is largely correct for the earlier period but that the culture of the Forest Service changed in such a way as to partially justify Guha’s analysis toward the turn of the twentieth century.

Underlying this transformation was the increasing valorization of engineering and reductionism, which eroded the viability of the conservationist position. This engineering paradigm was a natural accompaniment to a “technological ideology of dominance,” as suggested by Michael Adas and others.[6] Historians of British imperialism have focused on the ideologies of dominance with which servants of the British Empire justified their rule. Most importantly, Thomas Metcalf identified two divergent strategies by which the British justified their authority in India, one that emphasized the similarities between the British and their Indian subjects and the other that highlighted the differences. Over time, the ideology of difference predominated.[7] This generally parallels the later tendency favoring “scientific knowledge” over “local knowledge.” Members of the British imperial class believed that they possessed an objective and universal means to understand and control nature, while their subjects’ understanding of their local environment—based on subjective experience and tradition—was inferior; the inferiority of their local knowledge, in turn, explained their perceived poverty, technological backwardness, and superstitions of the local peoples. An ideology of difference made honest engagement with “local knowledge” feel like a betrayal of one’s own Western “scientific superiority.” A corollary of such a legitimizing ideology based in science and technology was a desire to be seen as scientific (including a fetish for quantification) and a tendency to favor technological solutions.


ALTHOUGH FORESTERS INCREASINGLY faced difficulty making the conservationist argument as positivist science and engineering paradigms gained cultural ascendance, it does not necessarily follow that the Indian Forest Service would turn away from its conservation mission and toward profitable extraction. Yet this is what gradually happened. The transformation can be illustrated by comparing a statement by B. H. Baden-Powell, one of the chief early advocates for the Forest Service, with one by E. P. Stebbing, an official historian of the Forest Service. Baden-Powell wrote in 1877: “if the wants, rights, and privileges of the people are pressing, rather give the whole right and income [of the forest] to the communal body than abandon the forest itself to destruction.”[8] Stebbing noted, however, that by the end of the nineteenth century, the forest administration had come “to be regarded by the Heads of the Civil Administration and by its own Chiefs as a purely commercial concern—its chief raison d’être the production of revenue.”[9] The emphasis on managing state forests primarily for commercial purposes intensified as the colonial state strove for Indian industrial self-sufficiency. The demands for Indian wood and other forest products during the First World War further solidified the department’s extractive focus.[10] Historians have generally ignored or denied this shift.[11] When they have explored it, they have done so mostly to illustrate broad changes in intellectual culture, especially in Europe.[12]

The question of institutional purpose raises questions of identity and esprit de corps—the corporate culture of the Forest Service. As the voice of the Forest Service for most of its history, The Indian Forester offers a window into the ideas and values to which the most junior forest officer and the most senior conservators alike were exposed. Analyzed over time, it can serve as a sort of cultural barometer, indicating the general concerns and issues prominent in the consciousness of members of the forest bureaucracy. I have catalogued, coded, and statistically analyzed items appearing the journal from its inception in 1875 to 1927.[13] The categories include “conservation and indirect benefits,” “exploitation,” “shikar and aesthetic enjoyment,” “science,” and “esprit de corps.”[14] Each of these categories was divided into several sub-categories. Sub-categories contributing to the “conservation” total, for example, included articles on conservation techniques, erosion, rainfall, and stream-flow regulation. The category of “exploitation,” by contrast, included plantations, railway, timbers, minor forest products, engineering characteristics of timbers, extraction technology, industrial applications, practical chemistry, commercial issues, and “economic forestry.”

My analysis generally affirms Ajay Skaria’s argument that articles on broad issues in The Indian Forester gave way to articles on technical issues by the early twentieth century.[15] I take a slightly different perspective, but Skaria’s categories of “broad issues” and “technical and specific” roughly correspond to the “conservationist” and “exploitationist” categories I am using here. Skaria, however, attributes this transition to the establishment of a consensus that made discussion of broad issues unnecessary, while I conclude that the explanation is more complex and more culturally embedded. The deeper reasons for the shift to a commercial orientation require consideration of the internal culture of the Forest Service along with its bureaucratic context—particularly its competition with, and sense of inferiority to, the Civil Service and the engineers. As an all-India service, the Forest Service had no regional powerbase and the individual forester always answered to, and could be overruled by, the local revenue officer of the Civil Service. There was a class component as well. A career in the judicial or revenue departments of the Covenanted Civil Service often led to honors and distinctions such as knighthoods. Such social opportunities were generally less available to foresters, who more often came from lower-class backgrounds than did members of the Imperial Civil Service. The Imperial Engineering Service was a specialized technical service like the Forest Service, but opportunities in the empire as well as in Britain were much better for engineers—and, as we shall see, by the end of the nineteenth century engineers had surpassed foresters in influence and cachet.

A comparison of “Conservation” and “Exploitation” items confirms the idea that forest conservation declined in importance while forest exploitation increased in importance. The correlation between the frequency of conservation and exploitation items is strongly negative (r=-0.85, P=0.03). It seems that the forestry establishment could not simultaneously promote conservation (as a concern—not necessarily as concrete activity on the ground) and permit exploitation, even though maintaining a balance between these goals was precisely the objective with which the department was charged. Although we cannot assume a causal relationship, we might wonder if those factors that promoted an increasingly exploitationist mindset did not somehow also cause foresters to devalue conservation.


TWO SUBJECTS CAN BE associated with both exploitation and conservation. The appearance of articles relating to shikar (hunting) and aesthetic enjoyment of the woods, although only weakly correlated to conservation (r=0.07, P=0.67), correlates negatively to exploitation items (r=-0.75, P= 0.04). Similarly, “pure” (non-applied) science articles correlate weakly to exploitation articles (r=0.39, P=0.05), but have a negative correlation to conservation articles (r=-0.14, P=0.06). The frequency of articles oriented to esprit de corps follows a similar pattern.[16]

Others have drawn a connection between the Forest Service and its aggressive culture of muscular manliness exemplified by shikar, but they present a static analysis.[17] Its correlation to conservationism needs a re-examination. The decrease in shikar-oriented articles in The Indian Forester, especially after the beginning of the twentieth century, suggests that the importance of this “white hunter” culture of manliness declined and was perhaps partially eclipsed by some other source of identity-making.

The identification of the forester with physical fitness was recognized early on. There is little question that the martial attitudes and accomplishments of the sportsman were important to the first generations of foresters in India. As John MacKenzie has argued: “Hunting required all the most virile attributes of the imperial male; courage, endurance, individualism, sportsmanship (combining the moral etiquette of the sportsman with both horsemanship and marksmanship), resourcefulness, a mastery of environmental signs and a knowledge of natural history.”[18]

A taste for hunting was considered a good indicator of suitability for the Forest Service. In 1865, when the Government Forests Act effectively created the Forest Service, men formally trained in forestry were scarce. The first chief conservator general, Dietrich Brandis, wrote that “officers were obtained from the Army and other sources, who in the pursuit of sport and adventure had acquired a love of a forest life and an intimate knowledge of the country, the people and their languages.”[19] Shikar and other such active pursuits probably suited military men and scientific generalists who volunteered to join the nascent Forest Service. Perhaps Brandis’s characterization of army officers and sportsmen contained an important insight about generalists and their propensity to understand local environments and local people. The cultural importance of shikar may well be a proxy for the influence of generalists in the Forest Service.

During the mid-nineteenth century, the chief advocates for conservation came from the East India Company (EIC) Medical Service. Like their counterparts in other branches of the EIC civil service, the surgeons and other conservation advocates were broadly educated. Most of the Medical Service conservationists had trained in botany and had become devoted enthusiasts.[20] Even Brandis, most clearly identified as a forester, was not a forester by training, but a lecturer in botany. Concern for the loss of species guided some conservationist impulses. Many of the surgeons of the Medical Service recognized the potential value of tropical species in discovering medicines, but it is also clear that they were motivated by a naturalist’s appreciation for the wonders of biological diversity and a botanist’s intellectual curiosity.[21]

In addition, the forest conservationists of the 1840s through 1860s were more likely than later specialists to take into account the various concerns and knowledge of local people. Unlike later foresters, their training included local languages. Besides Greek and Latin and German and French, Alexander Gibson, for example, knew Hindustani, Mahrati, and Gujerati.[22] By contrast, after the establishment of the Forest Service, prospective foresters were only expected to know French or German (in order to be trained on the European continent, where knowledge of “scientific forestry” was more developed).

After the establishment of a national forest school in 1884 at Coopers Hill College in England, the education of forest officers was increasingly circumscribed. Although much of their work was administrative, foresters, unlike civil service officers, received little training in languages and legal issues.[23] At Cooper’s Hill (and later at two other forestry-training schools at Oxford and Dehra Dun) the creation and maintenance of a strong esprit de corps was emphasized.[24] As the technical education of foresters became more uniform, the appearance of articles in The Indian Forester relating to the esprit de corps of the Forest Service also increased—from about 4 percent in the 1870s to about 10 percent in the 1910s and 1920s. The 1905 curriculum at Coopers Hill was, in some ways quite similar to that at Addiscombe, the military academy that produced many of the earlier generation of foresters, a half century earlier. Both emphasized experimental sciences, geometrical drawing, geology, and engineering. However, foresters took extra courses in entomology, botany, forestry, and “book-keeping in reference to Indian Forest Accounts,” while their military forbears spent more time on history, languages, strategy, tactics, and fortification.[25] One significant difference was the time allotted to training. Addiscombe was a four-year institution, while Coopers Hill rushed probationers through a packed course of study, including required practical work during vacations, in three years.

The quick training pace did not promote a deep intellectual curiosity about, or affection for, the natural systems that they would manage. “What happened in many cases,” wrote one disaffected forest officer, “was that what should have been an interesting and profitable study developed into a wild struggle against awful odds to obtain the number of marks necessary to qualify. Many of us thus came to look on some of these sciences as enemies whose object was to endeavor to keep us out of the service instead of as friends whose design was to help us in our future careers.”[26] The definition of the Forest Service as an exclusively scientific agency led a 1921 commission to suggest aggressive recruiting of graduates from Oxford and Cambridge with honors degrees in applied and theoretical sciences. Some of the most distinguished veterans and leaders of the Forest Service resisted this strongly. According to the committee, Sir William Schlich, a former Inspector General of Forests in India, writer of the definitive English language forestry textbook, and head of Coopers Hill College, “went so far as to say that the training up to an honours standard in science was a positive disadvantage, tending to produce specialists in their own particular subjects, leaving forestry almost as a secondary consideration.”[27]

Dietrich Brandis, the founder of the Indian Forest Service, is an illuminating case in point. He had no real background in forestry, when Lord Dalhousie (at the suggestion of Brandis’s sister-in-law) appointed him to fill a vacancy as superintendent of forestry in Pegu (northern Burma) in 1856. Brandis was a 31-year-old lecturer in Botany at Bonn University: all of his knowledge of forestry was indirect—coming exclusively from his contact with foresters in Germany. Seeing limited prospects for advancement in Bonn, he accepted the job offer. En route to Rangoon, the ship bearing his botanical library and herbarium equipment sank in the Rangoon River. He said later that he considered this as a divine sign that he should put aside botany and devote himself to forestry.[28]

Brandis admired forestry practice in Germany and energetically advocated its application in India and Burma. When he left for India, however, knowledge of tropical forests was extremely limited in Germany. It is a testament to his scientific training, practicality, and his generalist’s temperament that he approached these unknown forests through careful observation, experimentation, and consultation with local forest users.[29] For example, the system of taungya cultivation generally attributed to Brandis is an adaptation of the local Burmese form of shifting cultivation in which local swidden agriculturists cooperate to produce and tend teak following one or two seasons of food crops.[30]

Brandis toured the Indian Empire extensively and carefully noted indigenous forest management practices such as sacred groves in Mysore, fuel and fodder reserves or birs in Rajputana, shikargarhs (game preserves) in Sindh, and a “regular system of coppice” in the dhao jungles of the Raojee of Hamirghur.[31] He observed that the reserves’ value could not be measured by revenue, but by the “increased production of cattle fodder and wood for the people, and by the effect which their protection would have in increasing the water supply in wells, tanks and springs.”[32] However, he was also clear that without state forest reservation, many districts would have been rapidly denuded.[33] The skill he employed in making these observations and building the relationships described above came not from prior knowledge of forestry, but from a generalist’s broad grasp anthropology, biology, and diplomacy.


ALTHOUGH BRANDIS LOBBIED from the outset for the systematic training of forestry specialists, it may be that the active generalist more easily developed affection for the forest, the holistic view, and the recourse to local knowledge than did the trained specialist forest bureaucrat. The conservationist attitudes and perspectives associated with some generalists faded from the Forest Service as its membership became increasingly specialized. In the pages of The Indian Forester, articles indicating the interest of the generalists in hunting gradually were replaced by articles more appealing to the interests of the new generation of bureaucrats. It may be that concern with the bureaucracy itself eclipsed shikar among the passions of the new bureaucrats. As B. B. Misra has written about the Indian Civil Service, “the strong esprit de corps… made the recruits interested more in the Service than the country where they served.”[34] Thus, if shikar articles can serve as a proxy for generalists in the Forest Service, esprit de corps articles might serve as a proxy for narrow bureaucratic specialization, particularly as a separate all-India technical service whose membership often chafed at their subordination to the Indian Civil Service.

Shikar might have played a more obvious role in keeping the multiple functions of forests present in the minds of foresters. Hunting was a form of recreation that got a forest officer out into the woods “to explore many places he might not have otherwise inspected.”[35] He engaged the forest environment, as one retired forester recalled in 1935: “If a forest officer is keen on shikar it means that he spends his leisure hours in the pursuit of game in the forests in the company of forest villagers under his charge. He thus gets to know his forests and his villagers, which is all to the good.”[36]

By the second decade of the twentieth century, however, retired foresters with extensive records of service complained of the long hours a forester had to devote to paperwork. Earldley-Wilmot described the new generation of forest officers as “toilers of the pen who stream into the various hideous public offices at ten of the morning, nor dare leave them till late in the evening, for the reason either that the work is unfinished or that more is expected.”[37] There was no time for hunting and thus presumably less time for directly inspecting the forests as well. Perhaps this helps to explain the inverse trend of shikar and exploitation. It was a major goal of the Forest Service to operate forest areas under their control according to “working plans,” which were detailed prescriptions for extracting the maximum sustainable yield of valuable species. Although then-Inspector-General William Schlich created the centralized “Working-Plans Branch” in 1884, it was only in the last years of the nineteenth century that any considerable portion of reserves was under working plans. Preparing these plans involved as much knowledge of accounting as silviculture.

As the financial results of India’s state forestry improved the department’s standing, they caused greater emphasis to be placed on the administrative aspects of managing timber contracts and fiscal accounting. An American forester declared that a “practical business administration stands forth as the foremost achievement” of the Forest Service in 1913: “A substantial net revenue can always be assured. In the business success of the forest administration, economy, as well as the development and exploitation of the natural resources, have played important parts. Possibly in some parts of India there has been serious over-cutting due to the keen desire to secure financial results.”[38]

Besides forest products, the sale and regulation of hunting licenses was another source of revenue that added to the office work of the forest officer. Earldley-Wilmot dryly noted, “more than one Forest Officer has laid aside gun and rifle entirely, so as to have a freer hand in the issue of licenses and in the decision of disputes that may arise amongst others—a distinctly humorous result of game laws that add to the duties of the forester that of gamekeeper, and deprive him of one of the most popular incentives to a forester’s career.”[39] As shikar played less of a role in the forester’s life, so too would that emotional, visceral, and integrated understanding of the forest that came of intimacy. Perhaps this personal connection was required to inspire advocacy for conservation. Wendell Berry has observed “that people exploit what they have merely concluded to be of value, but they defend what they love… [and] we love what we particularly know.”[40]

This may explain the connection between shikar and conservation; it may even explain to some degree why the ascent of exploitationist thinking in the Forest Service correlates to a decline in the cultural value of shikar.


IT IS MORE DIFFICULT to explain the negative correlation between “science” articles and “exploitation” articles in The Indian Forester. The scientific investigations of the Forest Service were not necessarily closely linked to economic concerns. Prior to the 1906 establishment of a Forest Research Institute at Dehra Dun, most scientific research was carried out by individual enthusiasts who engaged in “botanizing” in much the same way that hunters engaged in (and wrote about) their passion. Theodore Woolsey, an American observer, suggested, “this Bureau will be strengthened if it tackles the more practical every-day management problems… instead of conducting its work on such purely scientific lines.”[41] One could argue that science and forest economics were more closely linked after 1910, when R. S. Pearson, newly appointed as the first Forest Service economist, started the Minor Forest Products Research Branch.[42] However, the connection between science and exploitation in this context may have more to do with a shared conceptual frame of reference.

To understand this connection we must consider the nature of both sorts of articles. Articles in the “exploitation” category fell into the following basic groups: (1) those concerned with the maximization of yield of particular commercial species, (2) those with the properties of various woods as engineering materials, (3) those with methods to facilitate extraction or processing of forest products, (4) those with development of new products and markets, and (5) those with economic and financial issues having to do with timber and other forest product markets. “Science” articles most typically focused on botanical taxonomy, entomology, and chemistry, or on pot experiments to determine germination requirements and schedules of various tree seedlings.[43]

What all of these have in common is an essentially reductionist approach to the forest and its constituents. The botanizing practiced in the nineteenth century generally focused on the collection and characterizing of species; later in the century, “economic botany” focused on the functions of plants essentially as medicinal, commercial, and industrial materials.[44] This sort of botany did not explore the functions of plants in the forest and certainly did not conceive of the forest as community with effects on life both within and outside the forest. It would be the worst sort of ahistoricism to fault the Forest Service botanists of the period for this, as the science of ecology was in its infancy. This simply underscores the point that such an intellectual framework was not generally part of the training and bureaucratic culture.

The reductionist nature of chemistry does not require expansion. Perhaps it is significant that the most highly placed Indian “native” was S. Puran Singh, imperial forest chemist, who was one of the original appointees to the Forest Research Institute at Dehra Dun in 1906.[45] Work in entomology and mycology did lead to silvicultural strategies recognizing ecological relationships and the benefits of non-monocultural forests even on plantations. Interestingly, after around 1917, trials of various pesticides and fungicides largely displaced this research. The controlled pot experiments, the biocide trials, and the chemical analyses all depended on a reductionist model (i.e. the exclusion of multiple variables). Similarly, the exploitationist concern with particular species, their commercial properties and products, emphasized the particular parts, while conveniently ignoring the whole. This reductionist, mechanistic mental framework led researchers away from conservationist thinking because they needed to isolate one or more variables—the particular species or property of forests—that moderate stream flow, mitigate flooding, prevent erosion, affect climate and precipitation, and the like.[46] Particularist, not holistic, thinking prevailed.


ANOTHER WAY TO SEE the effect of a reductionist mental frame or “engineering paradigm” on conservationist thinking is to observe the impact that news of engineering triumphs and failures had on the Forest Service. The great monuments to British engineering in India were the massive railroad bridges and the complex and vast canal irrigation schemes. These were the engineer’s answer to the persistent and tragic famines that plagued India. One project opened up the vast “wastes” to cultivation while the other enabled trains to redistribute the produce of the irrigated lands to famine districts, the free market providing the mechanism to govern redistribution. As members of the Irrigation Commission saw it: “Every extension of irrigation increases the security of the food supply of the country in years of drought, and, in these days of cheap railway freights, the produce of irrigation can be carried to those parts in which it is most required.”[47]

Each famine brought out much hand-wringing self-examination on the part of British officialdom and concerned public alike. While a large portion of the solutions proposed had to do with building more railroads and irrigation projects, famines caused some to consider whether deforestation was a cause of climatic misery. In fact, famines brought out noticeable bursts of conservation-oriented articles in The Indian Forester as well as other journals, while the opening of new engineering wonders precipitated the virtual disappearance of such articles.

Each of the major events in railway and irrigation construction seems to have precipitated a decline in the relative contribution of “conservation” articles. Each of these monuments to engineering prowess gave hope that engineers could provide a quick techno-fix in the struggle to prevent famine and fuel economic growth. In 1879, when the government bought the East Indian Railway (the largest of the private lines) it initiated a policy of taking over the large companies when their contracts ran out. It was widely assumed that government could construct railways more cheaply and that unity of ownership would eliminate the inefficiencies of the earlier policy, allowing freight costs to dramatically decrease (which they did). The government also embarked on a flurry of accelerated railroad projects, more than doubling the total track length by 1890.[48]

Just such a program of railway construction was a major recommendation of the Famine Commission, so there were plenty of reasons to see the technology of the railways as a panacea. The Sukkur railway bridge was a major engineering feat in its own right, but more importantly, it was the final link across the Indus that allowed Karachi to become the major transshipment point for Punjabi wheat and cotton.[49] Similarly, the Chenab Canal was the greatest achievement of British engineering since the Ganges Canal: it established a perennial water supply that allowed the hardy colonists from eastern Punjab to convert the arid “waste” lands of the central bar into rich fertile tracts of wheat, cotton, and sugarcane. Meanwhile, the Wazirabad-Khanewal line, completed between 1896 and 1900, connected the major trading centers of the Chenab Canal Colonies. These developments—it was assumed—would turn the Punjab into the bread-basket of India if not the Empire! To bureaucrats of the British Empire and to the public alike, suggestions that forest degradation might lead to aridity and loss of soil fertility would have seemed insignificant compared to these engineering marvels.

Nonetheless, the famines continued. The longer their duration, the more some writers suspected that the giants of engineering had failed them. Most of these conservationist articles adhered to the “nature-bats-last” formulation, but many also emphasized the value of forests as forage reserves. Largely, though, they returned to the role of forests in raising humidity, lowering temperature, and moderating water discharge. It is telling that most of the conservationist articles in The Indian Forester during the famines of the 1870s and 1880s were written by foresters, but an unusually large portion (31 percent of those appearing between 1894 and 1909) during the famines of the late 1890s and 1905–1908 were reprints and extracts from articles written by people outside the Forest Service.[50] For example, Indian Engineering blasted the Forest Service for allowing forests in catchment areas to degrade while organizing extractive activities for profit.[51]

Meanwhile, some foresters derided such desiccationist perspectives as “unscientific.” For example, while the 1908 famine was still a fresh memory, a contributor from the Forest Service admonished the Burma forest department that it “would do well to drop further references to the beneficial effect upon the climate of a country exercised by forests.”[52] Conveying a keen sense of embarrassment that many foresters were associated with these theories despite the lack of adequate quantitative evidence to support them, the anonymous contributor quoted Lord Kelvin, saying “when you cannot express it in numbers, your knowledge is of a meagre and unsatisfactory kind.”[53] Other letters published in The Indian Forester during the turn-of-the-century famines expressed a similar desire to distance themselves from the idea that forest protection might help prevent famine through regulation of stream flow and impact on rainfall.

Nonetheless, the seemingly unrelenting occurrence of famine at the turn of the twentieth century kept the possible connections between deforestation and famines at the center of debates. In 1901, L. C. Innes wrote: “it is noteworthy that, at the commencement of the terrible famine which has just now terminated, it was confidently asserted by the most experienced officials that the railways and other communications had been so greatly extended since the previous famine that it was practically impossible that the famine then apprehended could be attended with any serious amount of distress. And it is a fair inference, from the facts which so completely falsified these prognostications, that no amount of elaboration of the means of transporting grain from one part of the country to another can altogether prevent the more serious effects of famine from taking place.”[54]

Innes was at this point an old man and his advocacy for reforestation was a reformulation of an argument he had first presented in a pamphlet in 1859.[55] In fact, he cited as his sources the same desiccationist writers whose influence had been brought to bear in the creation of departments of forest conservation under East India Company (EIC) rule. Innes relied heavily on “Ribbentrop’s Report,” which had been published a year before, after Berthold Ribbentrop retired from a distinguished career in the Forest Service. Ribbentrop, in turn, relied on the same authorities (Alexander von Humboldt, Jean-Baptiste Boussingault, Alexander Gibson, Hugh Cleghorn, among them) that Innes cited directly.[56] One might dismiss Innes as an old crank, hopelessly out of touch and out of date, but it would be difficult to dismiss Ribbentrop so easily. In fact, the preceding four decades had produced little new scientific work on forests and local climate. The forestry community appeared to have almost dropped the question.

The lack of information and apparent lack of interest in the climatic effects of forests is surprising. In the middle of the nineteenth century, it was the subject of much scientific debate and inquiry. As early as 1847, in response to a paper from Alexander Gibson, the EIC Court of Directors issued a circular letter asking the government of India to ascertain “the effect of trees on the climate and productiveness of a country, and the results of extensive clearances of timber.”[57] Although an initial flurry of responses pointed to evidence of springs drying up after forest clearances, no definite reply was ever given.[58] In the 1870s and 1880s, the meteorologist Henry Blanford conducted three studies to investigate the role of forests in local hydrology and rainfall.[59] Over twenty years, Blanford compared multiple pairs of rain gauges inside and outside natural forests and irrigated plantation forests as well as average rainfall in a deforested area before and after reforestation. Blanford cautiously wrote, “the evidence, so far as it goes, favours the idea that the forest increases rainfall.”[60] The study was barely noted in The Indian Forester, and neither Innes nor Ribbentrop cited it.

Sixty years after the EIC Court of Directors’ inquiry, in a 1907 note to the heads of the Forest Service, the secretary of state for India, Lord Morley, asked the same question about the effects of forests on climate, groundwater, and flooding.[61] There was little enthusiasm for revisiting the question. The Indian Forester editorialized, “The beneficial results of forests on the retention and regulation of surface moisture is a generally accepted fact, but it will be hard to produce data to prove that this is the case.”[62] Sir William Schlich, inspector general of forests, replied directly to the viceroy: “an investigation of the influence of forests on rainfall would be very difficult and unlikely to lead to any definite result.”[63] The official report compiled by the chief conservator of forests of the Central Provinces was inconclusive. The influence of forest on rainfall was “probably small,” and regarding the effect on ground water “the papers forwarded did not provide sufficient information to justify any change in the principles on which the forest policy of the Government has hitherto been based.” The report went on to characterize those principles as being “founded mainly on considerations of a directly economic character, connected with the conservation of the grazing resources and forest produce of the country, and that the climatological considerations did not in any way affect these well-established principles.”[64] The broad concern for public welfare evinced by Gibson in 1847 had disappeared entirely. Equally importantly, the recommendation was to act on inconclusiveness as though it were a negative. Bemoaning the persistent tendency of revenue officers and foresters to consider the climatic effects of forests unproven and forest resources to be virtually inexhaustible, B. H. Baden-Powell wrote in 1892, “The absolute fallacy of this idea, it is to be feared, will not be established till our forests are (experimentally) ruined before their eyes.”[65] By the early twentieth century, his fear seemed to be coming true.


BY THE EARLY twentieth century, forestry had become a state enterprise. From 1890 to 1920, the annual nominal revenue surplus of the Indian Forest Service (IFS) more than tripled. Whereas forest revenues contributed on average less than one percent to the total government revenues in the 1880s, they averaged almost three percent between 1910 and 1920.[66] The recorded amount of timber removed from the forest increased 300 percent. The amount of timber granted to right holders and fee grantees stayed steady, but sale to timber contractors and commercial purchasing agents shot up impressively: measured in cubic feet sold, the amount sold to purchasers increased from 600,000 in 1896–7 to 4.1 million in 1913–1914 to 8.3 million in 1915–16. The annual revenue from grass and fodder accounted for about 27 percent of the total revenue surplus of the Indian Forest Service in 1916–1917.[67]

With the expansion of irrigation in the Punjab, the general management of forests in all their diversity began to give way to the business management of irrigated tree plantations. Meanwhile two million acres of forests in the southwestern plains of Punjab disappeared under the colonization scheme.[68] Besides the loss of nomads’ grazing land and biodiversity, the disappearance of the scrub forests resulted in increased wind erosion, which combined with water logging and salinization to take 500,000 acres out of production each decade after 1900.[69]

The deforestation driven by the growth of the canal colonies represented no net loss to the Indian Forest Service since it could replace the fuel and building supply function with irrigated plantations. Moreover, with plantations, the forest department could charge more and better regulate tree growth. One could reasonably argue that the Forest Service forsook its role as environmental protector to become a client of the irrigation department. By the 1920s, with seven major irrigated plantations totaling 61,999 acres, writers for The Indian Forester no longer promoted the benefits of forests to irrigation; they were too concerned with the inverse range of problems, such as the cost of irrigation water and the profitable management of plantations.[70] Scientific and economic forestry created (with the help of public works departments) a regulated landscape that conformed to the disciplinary and bureaucratic demands for legibility and order.[71]

The First World War accelerated and reinforced the trend toward exploitation in the Forest Service. The impact of the war on India—with its demands for wheat, cotton, wood products, and soldiers—is well known. Northwestern India was particularly affected. During the war, more than 480,000 Punjabis served in the Army, of whom 318,000 were combatants. Of the male population of the Punjab, one man in 28 was mobilized (compare to 1 man in 150 for the rest of India).[72] The heroism of the 19th Sikh Army Division at Gallipoli is still remembered in all of divided Punjab.[73]

Less commonly noted are the contributions of India’s “minor forest produce” to the war effort. Northern India’s forests provided the shellac, turpentine, essential oils, and tanning materials for Britain’s war economy. Timber from Himalayan forests was supplied through the specially created “timber branch” of the munitions board for the construction of bridges, piers, wharves, buildings, huts and ships.[74] The general effect of the First World War on Indian forestry was to accelerate the transition to an extractive and commercial orientation. Forest Service revenue climbed more steeply during and just after the war than at any other time.[75]

The war also had an effect on the mindset of foresters, engineers, and other civil servants in British India. The First World War was the first modern technological war, and as such could not but impress itself deeply in the psyche of those who experienced it or read about it in newspaper reports. For Europeans, the rise of Japan and the horror of modern warfare called into question their sense of security and superiority. As Michael Adas noted, slaughter in the trenches on the Western Front caused “many European thinkers to challenge the assumption that better machines and equations demonstrated privileged access to physical as well as transcendent truths.”[76] In India, the war had a different impact. The power and potential of heavy machinery with the continuous tracks of the army tank, the utility of airplanes and trucks, and the perverse panacea of poisonous chemicals impressed the Empire’s environmental managers as much as did the horror of war. After 1918 , for instance, The Indian Forester published a markedly higher number of articles in dealing with this sort of technology, replacing to some degree the earlier emphasis on forest engineering such as slides, cables, and rails. In this sense, we could say that the commercializing and extractive influence of the war went hand in hand with the technologizing influence—each reinforcing the other, for example, tractors, trucks, airplanes (for surveys), and pesticides.


THE TENSION BETWEEN conservation and extraction, which existed before the creation of the Indian Forest Service, mirrored the tension between Indian civil servants and foresters. District officers, who controlled all of the land in their districts prior to the 1865 creation of the Forest Service, resented the intrusion of foresters. Even a decade later, in 1876, forest officers, aware of their protective mission, saw “in the district officer a man willing to sacrifice the lasting well-being of the empire, rather than allow the people to suppose that he has ceased to be all powerful in his district, while the district officer… regards the forest officer as full of crude and ill-digested notions, ignorant of, and indifferent to, the wants of the people… and the cause of innumerable petitions and disputes.”[77] Because the Forest Service was initially an imperial department, local governments had little control over forest officers or forest revenue. In 1882, however, control was decentralized and for most areas the forest officer became a subordinate of the revenue officer known as a collector. However, this immediately resulted in “over-cutting,” prompting a compromise in 1884, in which the inspector-general oversaw and approved working plans.[78] A convoluted and overlapping patchwork of imperial and provincial forest departments with different relations to the Civil Service thus characterized forest administration for about a decade.[79]

If the district officer was concerned with increasing state revenue from the land and the forester represented a longer-term perspective in protecting the country’s natural resources, then by 1894 the district officers had clearly won. In 1893, new rules clarified the superior position of district officers over forest officers.[80] Responding to an extradepartmental indictment of the effect of forest practices on agriculture, the Forest Policy Resolution of 1894 was implemented to make it clear that the interests of local agriculturalists superseded the goals of forest preservation.[81] Only lands suited to the production of valuable timber should be reserved, and “wherever an effective demand for culturable land exists and can only be met from forest area, the land should ordinarily be relinquished without hesitation.”[82]

In 1927 it was considered “expedient to consolidate the law relating to forests, the transit of forest-produce and the duty leviable on timber and other forest-produce.”[83] Standard histories of Indian forest policy point out that the Act of 1927 was simply an extension of the Act of 1878, with an expansion of government prerogatives representing “continuing efforts by the colonial administration to restrict popular access to Indian forests.”[84] Although it is true that the 1927 Act maintained the classification system of the former act, it also included most elements of the Forest Policy Resolution of 1894 with its emphasis on favoring revenue-generating agricultural demands. More importantly, the purpose of the 1927 Act was not simply to republish in consolidated form the already established law; the new legislation was an effort to “codify all the practices of the forest officials.”[85] Those practices, as well as the culture, mentality, and intention behind them, were markedly different from those of the 1860s and 1870s. For B. H. Baden-Powell, the primary architect of the 1878 Act, forest conservation to protect ecosystem services or “indirect benefits” was of prime importance, and not just a smokescreen for expropriation.[86] For the framers of the 1927 Act the cultural, economic, and professional context had changed significantly.

Under the new act, forest officers retained the responsibility for designating protected, reserved, and village forests, but the emphasis in the sections on protected and reserved forests concerned licensing for extraction of timber and other forest products—in other words, making sure that the government got its share. New sections were added to the new law in such a way that not only enabled the government to levy duties on timber and forest products coming out of the forests it controlled, but also on forests it did not.[87] The structure of the new law encouraged the forest officer to promote the sale of timber contracts and to make sure that the forest circles he managed contributed their share to government coffers. This was not new; it was simply the codification of existing practice and incentives. However, it opposed the spirit of the 1878 and 1927 Forest Acts, which were designed to reverse the process of indiscriminate land clearance and unsustainable timber harvests that were the result of laissez faire policies early in the nineteenth century.

The 1927 Forest Act not only carefully circumscribed the responsibilities of the Forest Service but also encapsulated the circumscription of thought within the Forest Service. This trend toward specialization accompanied by a narrowing of vision seems to extend to other civil services of the Raj. Bureaucratization has been a much-studied phenomenon of the British Empire, but less well explored is the complementarity between the reduction of governance to component parts and the reductionist science that guided the various corps of environmental management.[88] In fact, the two were mutually dependent and reinforcing. The dominance of the reductionist scientific paradigm led to a narrowing of vision that conceptually de-linked ecosystems and the needs of various groups in the minds of British administrators. Bureaucratization and reductionist science not only enabled but also required bureaucrats and scientific experts to concentrate on certain narrow concerns to the exclusion of others—often ignoring linkages between them. Foresters, whose organization had been formed precisely because of the effects of forests on public works, agriculture, and public health, now concentrated their efforts and considerable expertise on the business of managing forests to maximize the extraction of commercial species and minor forest products.


SEEKING TO PREVENT the overexploitation of common resources, the Indian Forest Service’s founders were concerned for local welfare, but also the welfare of farther-flung communities, future generations, and imperial interests in a sustainable wood supply. This involved a broad, holistic, generalist’s understanding of the issues involved. By 1927, the Forest Service had become a highly specialized bureaucracy concerned with maximizing extraction and with financial profitability. While still stressing long-term sustainability, the emphasis of the departmental culture was squarely on the short-term economic benefits of forest management rather than on long-term conservation, let alone the indirect benefits of forest conservation such as flood control, erosion reduction, and climate change.

Forest officials were always subordinate to the local collector, and conflict between the Revenue and Forest departments remained a sore point for bureaucratic institutions increasingly judged by their balance sheets.[89] Since reserved forest was not to be converted to agricultural fields, it was a source of revenue for the forestry department and not for the local collector. Unless foresters argued in terms of board-feet, loads of India rubber, or reams of paper, they were at a disadvantage and, worse, could be stigmatized as “unscientific.” Moreover, since their job was to restrict access to a resource they were tremendously unpopular with the rural public.[90]

While fear of popular unrest undermined many important conservation efforts, famines provided impetus to review options. Emphasis on irrigation and transportation gave further strength to the engineering position. However, these distressing periods caused some to look at the climate and water regulation services provided by forests as well as their function as grazing reserves. That forest reservations deprived agriculturalists of land that might otherwise grow more food in famine times undermined this argument. Engineering, by contrast, benefited doubly from famines. First, famines graphically and horrifyingly highlighted the need for more irrigation works. Second, the famine relief system provided large amounts of cheap labor for the construction of the colossal schemes dreamed up by hydrological engineers.[91]

Given the difficulty foresters faced in making a conservationist argument based on indirect benefits, the Forest Service embraced an increasingly exploitationist argument—emphasizing profits, the cultivation of commercial species, and the development of new minor forest products. This narrow focus obviated the need for a broad-based, ecological, understanding of the forests. The corporate culture of the forest department reflected this in the literature to which its members were exposed.

This in turn had its effect on the actual management of forests in India. John Richards and Elizabeth Flint estimate that forest cover declined from 20 percent of total land area in India in 1880 to about 16 percent in 1950.[92] By 1971, satellite imagery indicated that India’s forest cover had declined to about 10 percent of total land area.[93] We cannot know if the decline in forest area would have been more or less extreme had forest policy been different. Historians and foresters tend to agree on the general continuity of forest policy in India from the 1920s to the 1980s. Starting in the 1970s, the government expanded the area formally designated as forest (and thus subject to Forest Service protection and management).[94] A decade later, reforestation efforts bore fruit in increased actual forest cover. Since the 1980s this trend of increasing forest cover has continued. By 2000, satellite images and government statistics indicated that actual forest cover exceeded 20 percent—higher than mid-nineteenth century levels.[95] However, only 59 percent of the actual forest cover of the country is in the form of dense forests.[96] The rest of the forest cover consists of open forests and mangroves. Moreover, forest practices and policies vary greatly across regions and states, sometimes resulting in increased forest cover but decreased forest quality. In Uttar Pradesh, for example, between 1960 and 1990 more than half of the natural forests were cleared to plant eucalyptus, a faster-growing, highly invasive species with very high water demands.[97]

The new social forestry and joint forest management policies formalized in 1988 emphasize the involvement of local populations in forest management directly contrast with the prior forest policies, which emphasized almost complete state control over the forests. Based on ethnographic research at Dehra Dun, Kevin Hannam has demonstrated that the training of the Forest Service instills a hierarchical, elite culture that inhibits the implementation of these more socially sensitive forest policies. “The actual work that the forest officer is expected to undertake may have changed beyond recognition,” writes Hannam, “but the recruitment and training methods have not and… remain more concerned with maintaining the esprit de corps of the service.”[98] The curriculum would be familiar to a Coopers Hill graduate. Instilled with a sense of belonging to a scientific elite, forest officers are generally unenthusiastic about the new policies, and high personnel turnover rates have been the result.[99] Considerable evidence indicates that the culture of the Forest Service has maintained many of the specialized, technocratic, revenue-oriented characteristics described here. While this made for a Forest Service well suited to the policies of 1927, it led to an institutional incapacity to accomplish the social forestry goals of the new policies. As it adapts to new realities, the Forest Service can look to its own past to find a culture of scientific generalists, sensitive to local conditions and knowledge, and committed to forest conservation for broad environmental benefit.


Ben Weil is a doctoral student in environmental studies at the University of California at Santa Cruz. His article, “The Rivers Come,” published in the February 2006 issue of Environment and History, investigates British colonial approaches flood control on the Indus River. His dissertation on the history of renewable energy policy in California from the 1970s to the present is to be completed in September.


I thank Ravi Rajan, Sudipta Sen, Ray Weil, Lisa Rasco, and three anonymous reviewers for their thoughtful comments.
1. Eric Stokes, The English Utilitarians and India (Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 1989); Das Pallavi, “Hugh Cleghorn and Forest Conservancy in India,” Environment and History 11 (2005): 55-82; Indra Munshi Saldanha, “Colonialism and Professionalism: A German Forester in India,” Environment and History 2 (1996): 195–219; Ramachandra Guha, “The Prehistory of Indian Environmentalism,” University of California, Berkeley, April 1, 1997.

2. Madhav Gadgil and Ramachandra Guha, This Fissured Land: An Ecological History of India (Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 1993); Ramachandra Guha, “Forestry in British and Post-British India: A Historical Analysis,” Economic and Political Weekly 18 (1983); Ramachandra Guha, The Unquiet Woods: Ecological Change and Peasant Resistance in the Himalaya (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1990); Richard Haeuber, “Indian Forestry Policy in Two Eras: Continuity or Change?,” Environmental History Review 17 ( 1993); Vasant K. Saberwal, “Science and the Desiccationist Discourse of the 20th Century,” Environment and History 4 ( 1998).

3. Gadgil and Guha, This Fissured Land, 123–34.

4. Richard Grove, Green Imperialism: Colonial Expansion, Tropical Island Edens, and the Origins of Environmentalism, 1600–1860 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995); Richard Grove, Vinita Damodaran, and Satpal Sangwan, eds., Nature and the Orient: The Environmental History of South and Southeast Asia, Studies in Social Ecology and Environmental History (Delhi and New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).

5. Grove, Green Imperialism.

6. Michael Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men: Science, Technology, and Ideologies of Western Dominance (Ithaca, N.Y.: Cornell University Press, 1989); David Gilmartin, “Scientific Empire and Imperial Science: Colonialism and Irrigation Technology in the Indus Basin,” Journal of Asian Studies 53 (1994).

7. Thomas R. Metcalf, Ideologies of the Raj (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995).

8. B. H. Baden-Powell, “Note on the Demarcation of the Forest Area in Districts Containing Hill or Mountain Ranges,” The Indian Forester 2 (1877): 263. Baden-Powell joined the Indian Forest Department in 1870 as Conservator of Forests in the Punjab. From 1872–1874 he was acting inspector-general of forests to the government of India. Although he began his career in the Bengal Civil Service, he was throughout his service in India connected to the province of Punjab. He was an assistant commissioner, postmaster general of Punjab, commissioner, and judge in Punjab courts, starting in Small Cause Court and ending his career as a judge of the Chief Court of the Punjab. “The Late Baden Henry Baden-Powell, C.I.E.,” The Indian Forester 27 (1901).

9. E. P. Stebbing, Forests of India, 3 vols. (1926; reprint, New Delhi: A.J. Reprints Agency, 1982), 3: 345.

10. Ibid., 3: 351–54.

11. Gadgil and Guha, This Fissured Land; Haeuber, “Indian Forestry Policy in Two Eras”; K. Sivaramakrishnan, Modern Forests: Statemaking and Environmental Change in Colonial Eastern India (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999).

12. S. Ravi Rajan, “Imperial Environmentalism or Environmental Imperialism? The Agendas and Ideologies of Natural Resource Management in British India, 1850–1900,” in Nature and the Orient, ed. Grove, Damodaran, and Sangwan.

13. While an attempt to understand something as nuanced and complex as culture by categorizing and counting articles is inherently limited, the exercise helps in eliminating investigator bias while confirming trends perceived through traditional historical documentary interpretation. Comparisons are in terms of percentages, since the raw number of articles of various categories is less important than the proportion of each appearing in the journal in any given year. In all of the statistical analysis that follows, the sample size (n=7,889) is identical to the population. Since there are no distributional or probability tests used, this does not affect the statistical significance or power of correlations used. Raw data is available from the author upon request.

14. Other categories, not analyzed in this essay, included “foreign forestry departments,” “departmental development,” “rural relations,” “curiosities,” and “other.”

15. Ajay Skaria, “Timber Conservancy, Desiccationism and Scientific Forestry: The Dangs 1840s–1920s,” in Nature and the Orient, ed. Grove, Damodaran, and Sangwan, 625–26.

16. Esprit de corps and Conservation (r=-0.24, P=0.04); Esprit de corps and Exploitation (r=0.55, P=0.10).

17. Kevin Hannam, “Utilitarianism and the Identity of the Indian Forest Service,” Environment and History 6 (2000); Vandana Shiva, Staying Alive: Women, Ecology, and Development in India (London: Zed Books, 1988).

18. John M. MacKenzie, “The Imperial Pioneer and Hunter and the British Masculine Stereotype in Late Victorian and Edwardian Times,” in Manliness and Morality: Middle-Class Masculinity in Britain and America, 1800–1940, ed. J. A. Mangan and James Walvin (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1987), 179; quoted in Hannam, “Utilitarianism and the Identity of the Indian Forest Service,” 220. See also John M. MacKenzie, The Empire of Nature: Hunting, Conservation, and British Imperialism (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1988).

19. Dietrich Brandis, quoted in J. McDonell, “Early Days of Forestry in India,” Empire Forestry Journal 8 (1929): 85–97.

20. Richard Drayton, Nature’s Government: Science, Imperial Britain, and the “Improvement” of the World (Suffolk, England: St. Edumundsbury Press, 2000), 190–96.

21. Grove, Green Imperialism, 425, 431.

22. Ibid., 423n.

23. On the curriculum of the Indian Civil Service see: B. B. Misra, The Bureaucracy in India: An Historical Analysis of Development up to 1947 (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1977).

24. Hannam, “Utilitarianism and the Identity of the Indian Forest Service,” 215–18.

25. On Addiscombe, see Command Papers (1857) 974, vol. 6: 1. On Coopers Hill, see Command Papers (1905) 2523, vol. 57: 579. Quote from p. 589.

26. O.C.H., “The Training of Indian Foresters,” The Indian Forester 38 (1912): 44.

27. Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Imperial Forestry Education. Command Papers and Reports (1921) 1116, vol. 12: 726.

28. Dietrich Brandis, “Indian Forestry,” Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review and Oriental and Colonial Record Ser. 3:3, no. 5/6 (1897), Wilhelm Schlich, “The Indian Forester, 1875–1925,” The Indian Forester 51 (1925), Robert K. Winters, “Forestry Beginings in India,” Journal of Forest History 19 (1974).

29. Saldanha, “Colonialism and Professionalism,” 202–08.

30. Ibid., 202.

31. Dietrich Brandis, “Formation of Village Forests in Mysore” (Mysore and Coorg: Inspector General of Forests, 1868); Dietrich Brandis and Evelyn Arthur Smythies, “Report of the Proceedings of the Forest Conference Held at Simla, October 1875” (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1875), 44; Brandis, “Indian Forestry,” 13–14, 16.

32. Dietrich Brandis, “Suggestions Regarding Forests Administration in Ajmere and Merwara,” (Calcutta: Government Central Branch Press, 1879), 42.

33. Dietrich Brandis, “Progress of Forestry in India,” The Indian Forester 10 (1884): 453.

34. Misra, The Bureaucracy in India, 74.

35. Sainthill Eardley-Wilmot, Forest Life and Sport in India (London: Edward Arnold publisher for H. M. India Office, 1910), 77.

36. James William Best, Forest Life in India (London: J. Murray, 1935), 61. Cited in Hannam, “Utilitarianism and the Identity of the Indian Forest Service,” 221–22.

37. Eardley-Wilmot, Forest Life and Sport in India, 218.

38. Theodore S. Woolsey, Jr., “Impressions of Forest Administration in British India,” The Indian Forester 39 (1913): 293.

39. Eardley-Wilmot, Forest Life and Sport in India, 320.

40. Wendell Berry, Life Is a Miracle: An Essay against Modern Superstition (Washington, D.C.: Counterpoint, 2000), 41.

41. Woolsey, “Impressions,” 295.

42. Richard P. Tucker, “Non-Timber Forest Products Policy in the Western Himalayas under British Rule,” in Nature and the Orient, ed. Grove, Damodaran, and Sangwan, 472.

43. I did not break down these components of “science” in my quantitative survey, so these judgments are more impressionistic (although based on a fairly rigorous and methodical survey) than most of the other trend statements coming from this study. This impression is further complicated by the fact that many of these pesticide and fungicide trials were so focused on protecting major commercial species that they had to be categorized under the “chemistry” subhead of “exploitation” rather than “science.” However, since this serves to artificially reduce the linkage between “science” and “exploitation,” the strong correlation between the two categories seems even more remarkable.

44. Drayton, Nature’s Government, chs. 6–7.

45. Forest Research Institute (Dehra Dun India), 100 Years of Indian Forestry, 1861–1961, 2 vols., (Dehra Dun: Forest Research Institute, 1961), 2: vi.

46. It is even more difficult to explain what factor allows forests to invigorate or to promote a sense of peace of mind.

47. Indian Irrigation Commission, “Report of the Indian Irrigation Commission, 1901–1903,” in East India (Irrigation) (London: Command Papers, 1903), pt. 1, para. 114.

48. John Hurd, “Railways,” in The Cambridge Economic History of India, ed. Dharma Kumar and Desai Meghnad (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1982), 739.

49. Himadri Banerjee, Agrarian Society of the Punjab, 1849–1901 (New Delhi: Manohar, 1982), 49–50.

50. Moreover, of the remaining articles, more than half had to do with the conservation of forests as fodder and fuel reserves, three out of the remaining eight had to do with regeneration techniques.

51. “Indian Forest Conservation (from Indian Engineering),” The Indian Forester 35 (1909).

52. Op., “Want of a Definite Forest Policy in Burma,” The Indian Forester 37 (1911): 368.

53. Ibid., 371.

54. L. C. Innes, “Prevention of Famine in India,” The Imperial and Asiatic Quarterly Review and Oriental and Colonial Record 12 (3rd Series) (1901): 33.

55. L. C. Innes, “Vegetation as Connected with Water-Supply,” (Madras: 1859).

56. Berthold Ribbentrop, Forestry in British India (Calcutta: Office of the Superintendent of Government Printing, 1900), 49–67.

57. East India Company Court of Directors, Despatch no. 21 of July 7, 1847. Quoted in E. G. Balfour, “The Influence Exercised by Trees on the Climate and Productiveness of the Peninsula of India,” in Report of the Famine Commission (London: Command Papers, 1880).

58. J. Nisbet, “Indian Famines and Indian Forests (Reprint from the Nineteenth Century and After),” The Indian Forester 34 (1908): 644.

59. Henry Francis Blanford, “On the Influence of Indian Forests on the Rainfall,” Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 56 (Part 2) (1887): 1–15.

60. Ibid., 14

61. He actually forwarded a note from a former forest service scientist, Dr. J. Nisbet, which posed the question.

62. “The Enquiry Concerning the Physical Effects of Forests,” The Indian Forester 34 (1908): 385.

63. Quoted in “Forests and Water-Supply,” The Indian Forester 34 (1908).

64. M. Hill, “Note on the Enquiry by the Government of India into the Relation between Forests and Atmospheric and Soil Moisture in India,” Forest Bulletin 33 (1916): 41.

65. B. H. Baden-Powell, “Forest Settlements in India,” The Indian Forester 18 (1892): 147.

66. Data sources: Statistical Abstract Relating to British India. From 1867/8 to 1876/7. No. 12, 1876/7 to 1885/6. No. 21, 1885–86 to 1894–95. No. 30, 1894–95 to 1903–04. No. 39, 1903–04 to 1912–13. No. 48, 1910–11 to 1919–1920. No. 55. Retrieved from “The Digital South Asia Library” [Cited January 31, 2006]

67. Unless otherwise noted, the figures in this paragraph are from Neeladri Bhattacharya, “Colonial State and Agrarian Society,” in The Making of Agrarian Policy in British India 1770–1900, ed. Burton Stein (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1992), 137.

68. Ibid.

69. On the loss of grazing land and biodiversity, see Indu Agnihotri, “Ecology, Land Use and Colonisation: The Canal Colonies of Punjab,” The Indian Economic and Social History Review 33 (1996). On wind erosion, see W. E. Stampe, Planning for Plenty (Delhi: Government of India, 1944). Cited in Elizabeth Whitcombe, “The Environmental Costs of Irrigation,” in Nature, Culture, Imperialism, ed. David Arnold and Ramachandra Guha; Studies in Social Ecology and Environmental History (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1995), 255. Rukhs are scrub forests often protected by local custom and located near rivers in the Punjab, Rajputana, and Sindh. Reh is waterlogging, or oversaturation of soil from overirrigation and a rising water table. Khallar refers to the salination and alkaline toxicity left in the upper layers of soil after persistent irrigation. Both these conditions allow only the most salt-tolerant plant species to survive.

70. J. W. A. Grieve, “The Management of the Punjab Irrigated Plantations as Self-Contained Forest Estates on Commercial Lines,” The Indian Forester 46 (1921): 104.

71. On the concept of bureaucracies causing landscapes to increasingly resemble the abstractions in their maps and management plans, see James C. Scott, Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1998).

72. Hugh Kennedy Trevaskis, The Punjab of To-Day : An Economic Survey of the Punjab in Recent Years (1890–1925), 2 vols. (Lahore: The “Civil and Military Gazette” Press, 1931), 1: 43.

73. Richard Fox, Lions of the Punjab (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1986).

74. Evelyn Arthur Smythies, India’s Forest Wealth (London: H. Milford Oxford University Press, 1924), 82–91; Ibid., 13, 82, and 84.

75. Data from Stebbing, Forests of India, 620.

76. Adas, Machines as the Measure of Men, 7.

77. Charles Amery, “On the Relation between District and Forest Officers,” The Indian Forester 84 (1876): 296.

78. Bernhard E. Fernow, A Brief History of Forestry in Europe the United States and Other Countries (Toronto: Toronto University Press, 1911), 397.

79. Ribbentrop, Forestry in British India, 76–82.

80. “The New Draft Rules Regarding Settlement and the Positions of Revenue and Forest Officers,” The Indian Forester 19 (1893).

81. John Augustus Voelcker, Report on the Improvement of Indian Agriculture (London: Printed by Eyre and Spottiswoode, 1893).

82. “National Forest Policy,” (1894). Reprinted in Government of India, “Report of the National Commission on Agriculture 1976, Part Ix: Forestry. Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation,” (New Delhi: 1976).

83. The Indian Forest Act, XVI, (1927), Ch.1, S.1.

84. Haeuber, “Indian Forestry Policy in Two Eras,” 57.

85. Sharad Kulkarni, “Forest Legislation and Tribals: Comments on Forest Policy Resolution,” Economic and Political Weekly 22 (1987).

86. See, for example, B. H. Baden-Powell, “The ‘Chos’ of Hoshiarpur,” The Indian Forester 5 (1879); Baden-Powell, “Demarcation of the Forest Area,” B. H. Baden-Powell, “On the Defects of the Existing Forest Law (Act Vii of 1865) and Proposals for New Forest Act,” in Report of the Proceedings of the Forest Conference, 1873–74, ed. B. H. Baden-Powell and J. S. Gamble (Calcutta: Government Press, 1874).

87. The Indian Forest Act, chs.2, 4.; Ibid., ch. 6, 7, 8.

88. See, for example, Misra, The Bureaucracy in India, Donald M. Schug, “The Bureaucratisation of Forest Management in India,” Environment and History 6 (2000).

89. Ribbentrop, Forestry in British India, 76–88, 155–57.

90. The literature on the general unpopularity of the Forest Department and on forest rebellions and Satyagrahas is extensive. See especially Gadgil and Guha, This Fissured Land, Guha, The Unquiet Woods, Ramachandra Guha and Madhav Gadgil, “Forestry and Social Conflict in British India: A Study of the Ecological Bases of Peasant Protest,” Past and Present 123 (1989). On forest movements see D. E. U. Baker, “A Serious Time, Forest Satyagraha in Madhya Pradesh, 1930,” Indian Economic and Social History Review 21 (1984), Mahesh Rangarajan, Fencing the Forest : Conservation and Ecological Change in India’s Central Provinces, 1860–1914, Studies in Social Ecology and Environmental History (New Delhi, Oxford, and New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 95–137.

91. F. H. S. Merewether, A Tour through the Famine Districts of India (Philadelphia: J.B. Lippincott, 1898). See also Mike Davis, Late Victorian Holocausts: El Niño Famines and the Making of the Third World (London and New York: Verso, 2001), 37–41, 166–67.

92. John F. Richards and Elizabeth P. Flint, “Historic Land Use and Carbon Estimates for South and Southeast Asia: 1880–1980” (Oak Ridge, Tenn.: Carbon Dioxide Information Analysis Center, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, 1994).

93. Andrew D. Foster and Mark R. Rosenzweig, “Economic Growth and the Rise of Forests,” The Quarterly Journal Of Economics 118 (2003).

94. FAO, FAO Statistical Databases (FAOStat 2001) [CD-ROM] (FAO, 2001 [cited Feb 8 2004]), Foster and Rosenzweig, “Economic Growth and the Rise of Forests,” 603.

95. FAO, FAO Statistical Databases (cited 2005), Foster and Rosenzweig, “Economic Growth and the Rise of Forests,” 603, Government of Haryana, “State-Wise Geographic Area, Recorded Forest Area and Actual Forest Cover in India (1998–1999),” (Department of Forests, 2000).

96. Government of Haryana, “State-Wise Geographic Area.”

97. UPFC (Uttar Pradesh Forest Corporation), “Annual Report, 1990,” (Lucknow: UPFC, 1990). Cited by Foster and Rosenzweig, “Economic Growth and the Rise of Forests,” n18.

98. Kevin Hannam, “Educating an Environmental Elite: The Training of the Indian Forest Service,” Institutional Research in Geographical and Environmental Education 9 (2000): 268.

99. D. Sen, A. Purandare, and P. Das, “Social Forestry in India (Analysis of Various Models),” (Hyderabad: National Institute for Rural Development, 1993), 19. Cited in Hannam, “Educating an Environmental Elite,” 268.





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