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'Go after a man-eater that has killed a hundred people? Not on your life!'

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This paper offers a series of reflections on the life and work of Jim Corbett, the well-known hunter and conservationist in colonial India. As I show, Corbett emerged as a unique individual in colonial India, who, despite being an integral part of the British colonial establishment, held another set of views when it came to conservation. Unlike other colonial hunters in India, what distinguished Corbett was his relationship to the local populace and to tigers which points to the quintessential paradox of hunting and conservation that emerged in early-twentieth century India. For Jim Corbett, as this paper argues, conservation was not so much an abstract idea or concept, but an extension of his own persona, an individualised take on his immediate environment. As such his persona introduces interesting inflections into any simplistic binary of coloniser and colonised, powerful and feeble, hunter and hunted - thus presenting Corbett in a different light than that which the prevailing discourse on hunting and conservation would shed. Corbett's role was unusual, not only in that he substituted the camera for the gun, but also in his localised approach, and in his conservation cause, which evinces respect for tigers. Despite such caveats, this paper argues that Corbett remained a staunch loyalist to the Raj.
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Keywords: Jim Corbett; colonialism; conservation; environmental change; forestry; hunting; tigers

Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 October 2014

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  • The half-yearly journal Global Environment: A Journal of History and Natural and Social Sciences acts as a forum and echo chamber for ongoing studies on the environment and world history, with special focus on modern and contemporary topics. Our intent is to gather and stimulate scholarship that, despite a diversity of approaches and themes, shares an environmental perspective on world history in its various facets, including economic development, social relations, production government, and international relations.
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