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Environment and History

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Environment and History

Utilitarianism and the Identity of the Indian Forest Service

Kevin Hannam

Environment and History 6(2000): 205-228

This paper discusses the historical identity of the Indian Forest Service, the elite environmental organisation which controlled and managed nearly a third of India during the late nineteenth century. This organisation has been widely criticised by numerous authors, however it has rarely been analysed directly. Based upon an evaluation of the key voice of the forest service, the journal the Indian Forester, as well as the memoirs of various forest officers, this article will attempt to provide an outline of the identity of the Indian Forest Service in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Firstly, I demonstrate that despite some antagonism from the Indian Civil Service, the Indian Forest Service was initially structured along the same utilitarian lines. In particular, I show how, in the face of popular protests, the Indian Forest Service created and maintained its own esprit de corps through particular methods of recruitment and training. Secondly, I show that the Indian Forest Service had a crisis of identity and was at pains to distinguish itself from the Indian Civil Service, mainly through recourse to a more muscular definition of masculinity.

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