Journal of Biosciences

, Volume 38, Issue 2, pp 201–224 | Cite as

Natural history in India during the 18th and 19th centuries

  • Rajesh KochharEmail author


European access to India was multi-dimensional: The merchant-rulers were keen to identify commodities that could be profitably exported to Europe, cultivate commercial plants in India that grew outside their possessions, and find substitutes for drugs and simples that were obtained from the Americas. The ever-increasing scientific community in Europe was excited about the opportunities that the vast landmass of India offered in natural history studies. On their part, the Christianity enthusiasts in Europe viewed European rule in India as a godsend for propagating the Gospel in the East. These seemingly diverse interests converged at various levels. Christian missionaries as a body were the first educated Europeans in India. As in philology, they were pioneers in natural history also. They constituted a valuable resource for naturalists in Europe. European interest in their field work brought them scientific recognition as well as the much needed cash. More significantly,...


18th century 19th century colonial science India natural history 



This work has been partially supported by a history of science research grant from Indian National Science Academy. I thank the two anonymous referees for their criticism of an earlier version.


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Copyright information

© Indian Academy of Sciences 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Indian Institute of Science Education and ResearchMohaliIndia

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