Animal kingdoms : princely power, the environment, and the hunt in colonial India
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Shaped in part by diverse landscapes, game profiles, and ruling personalities, hunting in the Indian princely states in the colonial period was heterogeneous to a previously unrecognized extent. At the same time, significant underlying political, social, and cultural continuities unified states and their rulers’ approaches to sport. Focusing on the Rajput realms of Mewar, Orchha, and Bikaner, I show how princes of different ranks negotiated their states’ divergent landscapes in pursuit of dissimilar game, and how they trusted in superior hunting grounds, wildlife, and shooting methods to advance their personal standings and sovereign powers. I also investigate how these rulers used hunting to maintain connections with their state and lineage histories, to exemplify local Rajput ideals and identities, and to manage relationships with various audiences, including their subjects, state nobles, other princes, and British officials. This study is concerned as much with princely perceptions of game and shooting grounds as with “real” landscapes or environmental changes. I examine how the princes conceptually linked natural abundance with favorable political conditions and degradation with lost power and compromised dignity. I consider what it meant to pursue tigers, wildfowl, antelope, and wild boar in dense jungles, wetlands, arid plains, and imposing hills. In addition, I look at the ways princes attempted to employ and also to modify those meanings to suit their own purposes. I did the research for this dissertation at government and private archives in India and the United Kingdom. Because my primary goal was to discover princely views, I relied as far as possible on sources produced by elite Indians or by those in their service. Among the materials I used were state government records, personal correspondence, speeches, game diaries, hunting memoirs, photographs, and miniature paintings. Much of the documentation was in English, with the major exception of records relating to Mewar State and its subordinate noble estates. The language of those papers ranged from Hindi through Rajasthani (Mewari). To understand British responses better, I consulted Government of India records. Published memoirs and travelogues written by Europeans who visited and hunted in the regions under consideration also proved useful.