Cochin became a subsidiary state of British India in 1809, and witnessed thereafter a potent phase of colonial administrative incursions into its local economy and environment. Driven by an economic rationale that insisted on maximum exploitation of forest resources for the generation of revenue, the state legislated forest reforms that introduced scientific forestry and new technologies of resource extraction. This book sifts through a variety of archival material that has hitherto remained unexamined so as to trace the making of these forest reforms and their impact on the rich ecological life of the region. It examines the workings of the tramway constructed through dense tropical forests in the beginning of the twentieth century to transport massive amounts of extracted teak to the nearest ports and railway lines; the enormous financial burden this brought on the state and how that was mitigated through further exploitation of forest resources whilst limiting access of the local population to the forests. Examining the varied intersections between modern economic and scientific rationality, the technological expansion of an imperialist state, and the predicaments of local ecological worlds, this book is crucial for understanding the environmental history of a princely state less written about.
Sebastian Joseph is Assistant Professor of History at Union Christian College, Aluva, Kerala. He has worked on and taught extensively the environmental history of the erstwhile Cochin and Travancore states. He has also contributed much to the introduction and popularization of courses on environmental history in various colleged affiliated to the Mahatma Gandhi Uiversity, Kottayam; Kerala University, Trivandrum; and Sree Sankaracharya Sanskrit University, Kalady.