Dr. Mikko Toivanen (Ludwig Maximilian University, Munich) joins us to discuss his research on colonial tourism and its relationship with the environment throughout various Southeast and South Asian colonies in the 19th century. While frequently considered through a historical, economic or scientific lens, these colonial strongholds were also developed as havens of leisure tourism for travelling Europeans. By studying British and Dutch imperial travel logs, Dr. Toivanen demonstrates how colonial exploits transformed the natural environments in Ceylon, Java, and the Strait Settlement. He argues that these transformations were largely rooted in imperial competition to develop the most appealing travel destination for the European constituency. Competitive botany, for example, stimulated the construction of fantastical botanical gardens in colonial capitals, providing travellers with a highly exclusive and controlled tropical environment that provided attractive venues for events, performances, rest, and observation.
Perhaps most influential in his work is Dr. Toivanen’s argument that a circuit of transcolonial leisure-travel was developed around the mid-19th century. From the nature of this transcolonial circuit emerged a hierarchy of travel destinations, with Dutch and British invalid travellers seeking out specific colonial strongholds for vacation based on the desirability of their climate. This contradicts the previous belief that early colonial tourism had been restricted to the respective colonies of each European imperialist power.
This podcast was produced with the help of Renée Manderville (Project Manager, IOWC), Archisman Chaudhuri and Philip Gooding (both postdoctoral fellows, IOWC, McGill).