On the colonial frontier: gender, exploration and plant-hunting on Mount Victoria in early 20th-century Burma

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Abstract

In April 1922 Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. This honour was in recognition of her contribution to plant hunting and exploration, botanical illustration and anthropological knowledge accumulated about Burma during the quarter of a century (1897–1922) she spent there with her husband as part of the colonial service. While historical geographers have acknowledged that the colonies, in particular, often afforded women the space for practising science, the work of female naturalists in the field has received limited detailed scholarly attention. For Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe, her plant-hunting expeditions across Burma allow us to extend the epistemic reach of a spatial perspective developed by geographers and to demonstrate how the web of connections she developed in the colonies enabled her to circulate scientific knowledge across the globe. By focusing on a major expedition to Mount Victoria undertaken by Wheeler-Cuffe, this paper unravels the complexity of the practice of natural history within a global imperial framework through an examination of the private correspondence and pictorial archive maintained during her time in Burma.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)417-431
JournalTransactions of the Institute of British Geographers
Volume42
Issue number3
Early online date09 Feb 2017
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2017

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history
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woman
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abstract = "In April 1922 Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe was elected a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society. This honour was in recognition of her contribution to plant hunting and exploration, botanical illustration and anthropological knowledge accumulated about Burma during the quarter of a century (1897–1922) she spent there with her husband as part of the colonial service. While historical geographers have acknowledged that the colonies, in particular, often afforded women the space for practising science, the work of female naturalists in the field has received limited detailed scholarly attention. For Charlotte Wheeler-Cuffe, her plant-hunting expeditions across Burma allow us to extend the epistemic reach of a spatial perspective developed by geographers and to demonstrate how the web of connections she developed in the colonies enabled her to circulate scientific knowledge across the globe. By focusing on a major expedition to Mount Victoria undertaken by Wheeler-Cuffe, this paper unravels the complexity of the practice of natural history within a global imperial framework through an examination of the private correspondence and pictorial archive maintained during her time in Burma.",
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