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The conclusion examines comparative images of mountains in European atlases, particularly those of Heinrich Berghaus. This allows for a reprise of the key arguments by showing how remaking the Himalaya as globally commensurable necessarily meant erasing scientific uncertainties, failures of practice and dependence on indigenous expertise and labour. These are linked to broader issues in the histories of science, empire and geography to expose the assumptions that underlay the making of allegedly universal categories. The conclusion then briefly considers the trajectory of scientific practice in the Himalaya later in the nineteenth century. Ultimately, it argues that the comparison of uplands was central to the process of ‘othering’ that confirmed the mountains as the margins. Whether in applying horizontal divisions of latitude to vertical changes in vegetation or delineating ‘normal’ bodily reactions to the atmosphere, the lowlands always remained the point of reference. As a result, the conclusion argues that the notion of ‘the global’ itself needs to be understood as a powerful tool of empire, and calls for innovative new approaches to global history and the history of science.
This chapter considers the observation, comparison and visual representation of a range of altitudinal limits in the Himalaya: plants, animals, crops and human habitation. These limits were addressed especially through the lens plant geography. The chapter begins by examining the absolute limits of vegetation and attempts to divide up the Himalaya using a vocabulary of verticality borrowed from the horizontal (tropical, temperate and arctic). The second section extends these debates to animals. The third section examines debates over the ‘tropicality’ of the Himalaya, and inconsistences in the line of perpetual snow. The fourth section considers the altitude limits of cultivation, firewood and human habitation. The final section considers attempts to represent and understand these altitude limits visually by considering charts made by William Griffith and Richard Strachey. The chapter argues that as much as from abstract scientific interests, observations of altitude thresholds were wrapped up with the concerns of empire. Ultimately, applying existing horizontal divisions meant simultaneously overwriting pre-existing local cosmologies, and broader South Asian imaginings.
This chapter examines East India Company botanical gardens at Saharanpur and Mussoorie. The history of colonial gardens has borne much fruit in recent years, but in the case of India, this has overwhelmingly focused on Calcutta. Instead, this chapter follows the largely untold story of the ‘northern’ gardens, and their roles in the remaking of the Himalaya in European scientific and imperial imaginations. In focusing on the ambiguous position of these gardens – straddling the uplands and lowlands – this chapter demonstrates the inherent complexity in attempts to categorise the vertical globe. The chapter begins with the modification of the existing Mughal garden at Saharanpur for the purposes of scientific botany. Next, it considers debates around the need for a higher garden and the way altitude factored in the acclimatisation of plants. This is followed by a discussion of the centrality of two South Asian gardeners – Hari Singh and Murdan Ali – to the functioning of Saharanpur, and the role of indigenous collectors in the mountains. The final section considers the problems of distance and limited resources as the gardens became spaces for an increasingly globally oriented science.
The introduction outlines the two major arguments of the book. Firstly, the sheer laboriousness of doing science in remote locations, and the inherent dependency of naturalists and surveyors on Himalayan peoples’ expertise and labour. Secondly, the way that the imagining and remaking of the Himalaya was complicated by comparisons with the Alps and the Andes, and the recognition of the commensurability of mountain environments globally. Together, these approaches work to offer wide-ranging insights into the trajectories and consequences of emerging imperial visions of the globe in the nineteenth century. The introduction also lays out the geography, scope and scale of the Himalaya as treated in this book, and how the remaking of these overwrote existing understandings of the mountains in South Asian cosmology. This is followed by a discussion of the story of measuring mountains in relation to wider debates in historical geography, the history of science and the history of the British Empire in South Asia, as well as interdisciplinary questions about mountains, exploration and indigenous labour.
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