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History: Digitized Documents

External Links to Other Electronic Document Collections in Environmental History

American Conservation and Natural Resource Development in the Philippines

Some Political Background

General Developments and Public Health

Forestry and Agriculture

Irrigation and Development Issues in the British Empire

Irrigation and Development Issues in British India

Although a significant amount of irrigation work preceded them, the British carried out extensive irrigation work in India during their colonial administration.  Irrigation had been practiced in the Indian subcontinent since ancient times and it supported the earliest civilizations of the world.  The British sought to improve upon these ancient works and make Indian landscapes even more productive.  Their irrigation works in India became models for those pursuing irrigation development within and beyond the British Empire.  The British pursued irrigation development toward a variety of ends.  As the historians William Beinart and Lotte Hughes summarize, "The initial aims of colonial irrigation were to encourage agricultural settlement and political stability, boost production, increase state revenue, and improve communications.  Protection against drought, and the prevention of famine, were secondary aims which subsequently became much more important" (Beinart and Hughes, "Irrigation in India and Egypt," Environment and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), p. 134).  Irrigation works for the purposes of famine prevention did not necessarily align with the goals of profit and revenue generation.  The following historical documents provide contemporary insights into irrigation and development issues in British India.  Several of the documents also offer significant commentary on the tragedy of famine in British India and the effectiveness of British administrative responses to it. 
For a concise overview of irrigation and development issues in British India, see Beinart and Hughes, "Irrigation in India and Egypt," Environment and Empire (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 130-147.       

Irrigation and Development Issues Elsewhere in the British Empire

Although British India was an irrigation leader in the British Empire, there were extensive irrigation developments elsewhere as well.  The following historical documents particularly highlight the work of irrigation in the settler colonies where white settlers sought to increase settlement by transforming semiarid landscapes into irrigated oases.

Conservation and the National Parks in the United States and Canada

U.S. National Parks General Information

Yellowstone National Park

Glacier National Park

Record Group 79 National Park Service. General Records, Central Files, 1907-1939. "Game Protection" Folders. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Washington, D.C.

Record Group 79 National Park Service. General Records, Central Files, 1907-1939. "Game Protection" Folders. U.S. National Archives and Records Administration. Washington, D.C.

  • Before reading these documents, you will want to familiarize yourself with the 1855 treaty between the Blackfeet Indians and the United States.  For a full-text version of the treaty, consult the authoritative Charles Kappler, compiled and edited, Indian Affairs: Laws and Treaties (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1904); an online version can be accessed through the Native American Constitution and Law Digitization Project website which is coordinated by the University of Oklahoma Law Library and the National Indian Law Library of the Native American Rights Fund.  Here is a direct link to the full-text of the Treaty with the Blackfeet, 1855. 
    For additional background, see Mark David Spence, Dispossessing the Wilderness: Indian Removal and the Making of the National Parks (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999) and Louis S. Warren, The Hunter's Game: Poachers and Conservationists in Twentieth-Century America (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1997).

Wildlife Conservation and National Parks in Canada

Wildlife Conservation in Canada

Wildlife Parks in Canada

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