Peninsular Malaysia in the Context of Natural History and Colonial Science
Author: Jeyamalar Kathirithamby-Wells, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge
New Zealand Journal of Asian Studies 11, 1 (June 2009): 337-74.
This paper explores the origins of natural history in the context of European expansion and British imperialism, focusing on Peninsular Malaysia. Natural history as the basis for trade and commercial agriculture mediated the link between overseas expansion and the development of European scientific thought. By virtue of its strategic location in the moist tropics, Peninsular Malaysia made a significant contribution to natural history and, thus, to colonial science. Colonial exploration, cataloguing and mapping of biota was fundamental to the process of ‘territorialization’. Integral to colonial state-making was the mapping and documenting of information on climate, geography and natural resources. By exploring the biota of a largely uncharted territory natural history as a colonial enterprise expanded the
boundaries of scientific knowledge.