Moritz von Brescius will present a chapter from his second book project on the temporalities of ecological imperialism, slated for completion in early 2022. It provides a detailed analysis of the inner workings of the first large rubber plantation in the world, established by colonial foresters in British India in the early 1870s.
Global histories tend to be affirmative. Unlike the implicit success bias of many single commodity histories and ‘global commodity chains’, this paper focuses on the tropical rubber-yielding species Ficus elastica as a once globalized but ultimately failed plantation crop. Ficus elastica connected empires through the exchanges of seeds and agronomic protocols, yet also fuelled projects of what von Brescius calls ‘scarcity imperialism’ – the ambition to become independent of foreign supplies of strategic tropical products, whose natural reserves seemed to be on the brink of exhaustion due to unchecked over-exploitation.