Animal Kingdoms: Hunting, the Environment, and Power in the Indian Princely States

Animal Kingdoms: Hunting, the Environment, and Power in the Indian Princely States

by Julie E. Hughes


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One summer evening in 1918, a leopard wandered into the gardens of an Indian palace. Roused by the alarms of servants, the prince’s eldest son and his entourage rode elephant-back to find and shoot the intruder. An exciting but insignificant vignette of life under the British Raj, we may think. Yet to the participants, the hunt was laden with symbolism. Carefully choreographed according to royal protocols, recorded by scribes and commemorated by court artists, it was a potent display of regal dominion over men and beasts alike. Animal Kingdoms uncovers the far-reaching cultural, political, and environmental importance of hunting in colonial India.

Julie E. Hughes explores how Indian princes relied on their prowess as hunters to advance personal status and solidify power. Believing that men and animals developed similar characteristics by inhabiting a shared environment, they sought out quarry—fierce tigers, agile boar—with traits they hoped to cultivate in themselves. Largely debarred from military activities under the British, they also used the hunt to establish meaningful links with the historic battlefields and legendary deeds of their ancestors.

Hunting was not only a means of displaying masculinity and heroism, however. Indian rulers strove to present a picture of privileged ease, perched in luxuriously outfitted shooting boxes and accompanied by lavish retinues. Their interest in being sumptuously sovereign was crucial to elevating the prestige of prized game. Animal Kingdoms will inform historians of the subcontinent with new perspectives and captivate readers with descriptions of its magnificent landscapes and wildlife.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674072800
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 03/25/2013
Pages: 320
Product dimensions: 5.80(w) x 8.60(h) x 1.10(d)

About the Author

Julie E. Hughes is Assistant Professor of History at Vassar College.

Table of Contents

Abbreviations ix

Acknowledgments xi

1 Introduction: A Leopard in the Garden 1

2 Princely Sport and Good Tiger Grounds 39

3 Exceptional Game in Powerful Places 84

4 Controlling Environments for Progressive Sport 137

5 Martial Pasts and Combative Presents 185

6 Threatened Kingdoms of Dwindling Beasts 222

7 Conclusion: Leaving the Garden 269

Bibliography 279

Index 293

Illustrations and Maps

Illustrations (between pp. 132 and 133)

1 Bhupal Singh Shooting Leopard (c. 1930)

2 Fateh Singh with Tiger, Nobles, and Shikaris (c. 1888)

3 Shikari with Tiger and Hills (c. 1888)

4 Fateh Singh, Lord Reading, and Sambar Stags (1923)

5 Detail of Fateh Singh Hunting Tiger (c. 1888)

6 Fateh Singh Hunting Tiger (c. 1888)

7 Bhim Singh, Shikaris, and Boar (c. 1810)

8 Fateh Singh Hunting Leopard (1889)

9 Fateh Singh Watching an Animal Fight (1890)

10 Famine Work at Gajner Lake (c. 1899)

11 Ganga Singh and Lord Hardinge Shooting Crane (1912)

12 Trophy Blackbuck in Bikaner (c. 1927)


1 Princely and British India 27

2 Princely and British Bundelkhand 42

3 The Rajputana States 90-1

4 Hunting Grounds at Udaipur 99

5 Hunting Grounds at Nahar Magra 100

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