Cotton, climate and colonialism in Dharwar, western India, 1840-1880.
Journal of Historical Geography, 38(1) pp. 1–17.
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Focussing on the cotton improvement projects in Dharwar, western India, that exemplified the modernising aims of colonial agriculture in nineteenth-century India, this article interrogates the architecture of cotton imperialism in the colonised world through the conceptual lens of political ecology. In particular, it brings to the fore the crucial dimension of climate both as an element in colonial thinking and planning, and as a dynamic force impacting on the cultivation of transplanted American cotton. The climate of Dharwar was not quite what the cotton authorities had constructed it to be, and it was, moreover, undergoing change due to the impact of regional deforestation. Furthermore, the article shows how this failure to come to terms with local climate conditions was symptomatic of a broader failure to consider the overall agricultural livelihoods of peasant cultivators. Apart from a brief period when prices were artificially high, peasants much preferred growing the accustomed indigenous cotton rather than the new exotic variety. In turn, cotton was less of a priority than the production of millet food crops. By exploring the ways in which climatic conditions interacted with the economic, social, and technological processes of cotton production in Dharwar, this article highlights why American cotton cultivation failed to meet colonial expectations during this period, while also revealing the fragile architectural edifice of colonial power.
||2011 Elsevier Ltd.
||Dharwar; cotton; climate; colonial; improvement; peasants
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