Untold lives blog

19 July 2012

Botany in British India

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About the Project

Botany in British India is a project to catalogue, digitise and raise awareness of archival material. Our aim is to increase access to key records and enable research in this domain and others.


Botany in British IndiaAt the Height of Activity (1800-1850)

These records mainly cover the period 1800-1850 and are part of the India Office Records. At this time, there was a thirst for investigating ‘exotic’ plants in faraway lands, especially in India.

Highly determined surgeon-naturalists were at the centre of this intense and pioneering activity. These include Robert Kyd, William Roxburgh, William Griffith and Robert Wight. You can also find out how the British and the indigenous Indian population interacted and exchanged knowledge within these papers.

Activity documented includes: the creation and operation of botanical gardens in India (at Bangalore, Saharanpur, Dapuri, Ootacamund, Madras, Samulcotta and Darjeeling); plant-collecting expeditions to Assam, the Coromandel Coast and the Spice Islands; and the use of plants as foodstuffs, industrial products and medicines.


Subjects of Research in addition to Botany

Yes! Whilst botany is well documented, these archives are also of especial interest to anyone studying:

  • history of science, nature and the environment
  • sociology and cultural studies (e.g. social uses of botany, gardens as pleasure grounds)
  • colonial history (including the interaction between imperial and indigenous populations)
  • intellectual curiosity, administration and the exchange of ideas around the world

 …amongst many other subjects. The records also contain some hard data which could be used for data-modelling.
See also the publication: Richard Axelby and Savithri Preetha Nair, Science and the Changing Environment in India 1780-1920 (British Library, 2010)


How has the Project come about?

We identified these records relating to Botany in British India during the Wallich and Indian Natural History Project.

This project is made possible by the generous support from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC).


Find out more about the Records: Follow and Join in the Project’s Conversation

The Project has just begun! As I catalogue the files, I will make brief subject-orientated posts on selected records and introduce the topics they cover. These posts will be regularly appearing in blogs and social media using the keyword (and # hashtag): bibi.


How to Participate and Share
Our aim is to engage conversation and research, so please feel welcome to comment on the blog posts and share freely!


Claire Norman
Project Officer: Botany in British India



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