The Empire of Nature

Hunting, Conservation and British Imperialism

Changing approaches to hunting constitute an important theme in human history. This book uses hunting as one focus for the complex interaction of Europeans with Africans and Indians. It seeks to illuminate the nature of imperial power when exercised in the relationship between humans and the natural world. The main geographical emphasis is on southern, Central and East Africa, as well as South Asia, but reference is made to other parts of Africa and Asia and to the effects of white settlement elsewhere. The great hunters of the ancient world offered protection to their subjects' life and limb and to their crops by destroying wild predators. In Britain the nineteenth-century hunting cult had an extraordinary range of cultural manifestations. Pheasant covert, grouse moor and deer forest, explored and dominated by humans in the Hunt, became prime elements in nineteenth-century Romanticism. Hunting was an important part of the pre-colonial economy and diet of many African peoples. The importance of hunting was very apparent at the court of Mzilikazi, king of the Ndebele. As the animal resources of southern Africa became more important to the international economy in the first decades of the nineteenth century they came to be studied and hunted for science and sport. This apotheosis of the hunting mentality survived at least into the inter-war years and was indeed inherited by the Indianised Indian Civil Service and army in the years leading up to independence. Hunting remains important to those who continue to exercise global power.

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