Significance of Gardening in British India

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This book is a multi-faceted study of the role of gardening in British India with several accompanying illustrations- it is a study of imperial history, environmental history, cultural history and women's history .

First, as a study in imperial history that shows how the British used landscape architecture to convey images of power to both themselves and the Indians.

Second, as a study in environmental history, this book traces the way in which the British established a whole series of Botanical gardens centered at Kew in London. Tea and cincinchona (an antidote for malaria) were imported to be grown in India, while opium was forcibly exported to China. Without cincinchona, imperialism would have been medically impossible and without tea or opium, imperialism would have not been immensely profitable.

Third, this is a study in cultural history, exploring how the British tried to modify India by creating their own cultural retreat - the hill station.

Finally, this book deals with women's history. Gardening became a means by which English women occupied themselves, creating a little England to alleviate the intense homesickness.


"[The authors] show in this book the creation of controlled Europeanized landscapes was, even there, crucial to the process of colonialization ... it was against that backdrop that the garden emerged as a critical cultural symbol of British control ... [This work] is not a history of British gardens in India in a narrow sense, but a focus on the garden as a window into the social history of British life and attitudes in colonial India." (From the Commendatory Preface) Professor David P. Gilmartin, North Carolina State University

"This book provides data which is of utilitarian value to scholars working in this field, such as detailed references to contemporary manuals and handbooks on gardening ... the authors have realized the essentiality of irrigation with which the British would not have been able to create their gardens in India ... The authors have also analyzed a significant but rather neglected feature of the British Raj - the use of landscape architecture to send messages, both conscious and implied to British and Indians alike." - Professor Rubi Malone, University of Mumbai, India

"With a critical view of the assumptions of British colonialism in India, this concise book tells the story of gardening in a strange land and shows how mental health, economics and power politics can all be aided and advanced by the planned cultivation of flowers, vegetables, fruits, shrubs and trees." - Professor Martha Scotford, North Carolina State University

Table of Contents

1. The British Background
2. Coming to Terms with India
3. Hill Stations
4. Botanical Gardens
5. Gardens and Authority

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