Dr Jonathan Saha — RHS Lecture, 24 September 2021

University of Leeds collection: Elephants and Empire

‘Accumulations and Cascades:

On the Ecological Impact of British Imperialism’


Dr Jonathan Saha (Durham University)


Friday 24 September 2021

17.30 BST – Live online via Zoom


What effect did British imperialism in Myanmar during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries have on frogs? And given that the lives of these small amphibian creatures were rarely ever recorded or preserved in archival collections, how might we find out? Sceptical readers may also wish to take a step back and ask, why should historians even care about their lives? These are unusual questions for a historian to confront, but they are occasioned by the deepening conversation between ecology and history.

In this lecture, Jonathan Saha delves into the ecological impact of colonial rule in Myanmar. Though this, he argues that the concepts of ‘accumulation’ and ‘cascade’ are useful for enabling historians to narrate the impact of imperialism on the lives of animals, including humans.

Speaker biography

Jonathan Saha is Associate Professor of History at the University of Durham researching colonial Myanmar. His first book, Law, Disorder and the Colonial State (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), explored the history of corruption in the colony during the late nineteenth century.

Jonathan’s forthcoming book, Colonizing Animals: Interspecies Empire in Myanmar (Cambridge University Press, 2022), examines how animals shaped imperialism while having their own lives irrevocably transformed by the advent of colonialism. In addition, he has published a host of articles, including in Past & Present and the American Historical Review, on a range of other topics, such as law, mental illness, crime, and masculinity. He is co-chair of the Royal Historical Society’s Race, Equality and Ethnicity Working Group and one of the authors of its 2018 report.

Watch the video of this lecture

RHS Lecture and Events: Full Programme for 2021 >