Trekking around Upper Burma
Charlotte Wheeler- Cuffe’s exploration of the frontier districts, 1903
in Empire and mobility in the long nineteenth century
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Lady Charlotte Wheeler Cuffe was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society in April 1922. This honour was in recognition of her contribution to studies in natural history, accumulated during the twenty-five years she spent in Burma with her husband, as part of the colonial service. During those years she travelled extensively around the colony, exploring relatively unknown terrains, and gathering knowledge about the country’s botanical and anthropological make-up. Moreover, she and her husband were variously posted in different locations, from Rangoon in Lower Burma to Mandalay in Upper Burma. In 1903 the Wheeler Cuffes were transferred from Toungoo to Mandalay, giving her new opportunities for plant-hunting and botanical painting. Drawing on her private letters, day diaries and botanical illustrations, this chapter will focus on the practices of journeying during her first year in Mandalay (1903–4). It will consider the zones of contact, routes of mobility and mechanisms of inclusion or erasure that went into the making of knowledge about the region’s natural history during this period. Thereby this investigation will open up new dimensions to the project of reconstructing the geographies of colonial knowledge, gender and scientific inquiry, and the role of the visual in scientific communication.

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