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Grant number: FEL-257045-18

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Sumit Guha
University of Texas, Austin (Austin, TX 78712-0100)

The Political Ecology of Agrarian Empires in South Asia, c.1500-1900

Research and writing leading to publication of a book on the political and environmental history of South Asia from 1500 to 1900.

My effort is to build an integrated picture of the "political ecology" (Morrison, 2013) of a diverse region. Eurasia has long known kingdoms and empires. Inequalities of power structured these complex societies and allowed them to modify their environments. I also deliberately span the transition from indigenous kingship to colonial empire. I focus on how environmental processes functioned as a consequence of the struggle for control of the land, water, people and animals on which kingdoms and empires depended. The exertion of power is always met by contest and resistance. Resource access was contested with the weapons of the weak and the weapons of the strong. I will show how these contests shaped the agrarian environment over four centuries. I will especially look at the ecological and political role of human domesticates – from the many humble oxen that tilled the fields to few but lordly horses that trampled over them. This will be an ecology of empire.

Project fields:
History, General; South Asian History; South Asian Studies


Research Programs

Total amounts:
$50,400 (approved)
$50,400 (awarded)

Grant period:
7/1/2018 – 6/30/2019