This book is about the hunting of tigers and leopards, wild boar and game birds, by Indian princes a hundred years ago.
Focusing on Rajput princely states in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, it reveals a world of royal huntsmen differing in rank and prestige, ambition and personality, culture and politics. Their hunting practices, involving large and small game—striped, horned, and feathered—in environments ranging from desert to jungle, are described in detail. Weaponry and guns, costumes and trophies, shooting towers and photography, are among the book’s many other fascinating subjects.
These Indian princes operated within contexts shaped by local claims and hierarchies, regional rivalries and alliances, and British imperial interests. They were influenced by ties to ancestral territory, nostalgia for bygone days, the rise of conservationism, and the martial associations of hunting and sportsmanship.
Informed by the analytical approaches of environmental historians, animal geographers, art historians, and ecological anthropologists, this book demonstrates that no strict divisions existed between human and animal realms in princely India. Sovereigns, wild animals, and environments were interactive participants in the construction of territory, identity, and history.
Julie E. Hughes argues that this princely ecology could not produce harmonious environments for wildlife or people. She links the challenges and inequities associated with wildlife conservation in contemporary South Asia to these princely pursuits.
For anyone wondering if there was more to grand colonial hunts than simply killing animals, this is the right book. For anyone curious about what India’s princes did on their own turf and in their own time, and in environmental history, this is certainly the right book.
Julie E. Hughes is Assistant Professor of History at Vassar College, USA. Her PhD in History is from the University of Texas at Austin.