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Constructing State Power: Internal and External Frontiers in Colonial North India, 1850s-1900s

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)645-670
Number of pages35
JournalEnvironmental History
Issue number4
Early online date3 Jun 2015
DateAccepted/In press - 30 Jan 2015
DateE-pub ahead of print - 3 Jun 2015
DatePublished (current) - Oct 2015


This article places environmental history for the first time at the center of British India’s borderlands with a particular focus on the province of Sindh. Northern, or Upper, Sindh, defined by its proximity to mountainous, tribal Balochistan, was an “external frontier,” whereas southeastern Sindh, located well within British India’s territorial boundaries, was an “internal frontier” where aridity and scarcity of population meant that there was little to support a strong state presence. Colonial policy on both frontiers used irrigation canals to effect environmental change and to establish stronger state control in areas where officials thought it insufficient. In southeastern Sindh, canal-construction was a broader and deeper modernizing project than it was in the northern part of the province. These two contrasting frontier policies aimed to produce very different geographies of state space. A close investigation of canal policy written between 1850 and 1900 shows a clear aim to create a discursive and material distinction between Sindh as the interior of the empire and Balochistan as exterior. Analyzing a frontier's inward or outward orientation helps us understand how frontier policy is developed and executed.

    Structured keywords

  • Centre for Environmental Humanities
  • Cabot Institute Water Research

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  • Full-text PDF (accepted author manuscript)

    Rights statement: This is the author accepted manuscript (AAM). The final published version (version of record) is available online via Oxford University Press at DOI:10.1093/envhis/emv081 . Please refer to any applicable terms of use of the publisher.

    Accepted author manuscript, 477 KB, PDF document


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