Scottish-trained Doctors Environmental Anxieties and Imperial Development, 1780s–1870s

  • James Beattie
Part of the Cambridge Imperial and Post-Colonial Studies Series book series


This chapter examines the environmental anxieties Scottish-trained doctors2 expressed about the impacts of deforestation on colonial development in India and Australasia as well as the influence of locality in modifying the bureaucratic responses which developed. Assessing whether the Indian experience was mirrored in colonial New Zealand and Victoria, this chapter argues that less acceptance of government intervention in society in the settler colonies as well as differential experiences of deforestation meant that Scottish-educated doctors did not have the same impact in Victoria and New Zealand as they did in India. The prior existence of the IMS provided a ready-made source of environmental experts who, from the late-eighteenth century, identified the impacts of deforestation and, from the 1840s, contributed to the development of India’s fledgling forest bureaucracy. The Scottish-educated doctors’ differential influence is best attributed to their sound scientific education and numerical preponderance, together with the particular forms of government in India, rather than to any ethnic inclination towards conservation (which Richard Grove and others have contended). This chapter also argues that conservation also must be understood as an attempt to further colonial development. Forest reservation and management was designed to protect agriculture from droughts, soil erosion and flooding and, not least, to meet the increasing demands for timber by a burgeoning colonial economy. Furthermore, foresters presented the development of plantations in agriculturally useless areas as an efficient use of otherwise ‘waste’ areas.


Soil Erosion Forest Resource Forest Conservation Forest Department Settler Coloni 
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Copyright information

© James Beattie 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • James Beattie
    • 1
  1. 1.University of WaikatoNew Zealand

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