September 17, 2016

Elephants and Kings: An Environmental History

By Thomas R. Trautmann’62
The University of Chicago Press, 2015

Elephants and Kings: An Environmental History By Thomas R. Trautmann?62 Thomas R. Trautmann, a professor emeritus of history and anthropology at the University of Michigan, has been writing about ancient India and related topics since the late 1960s. In his latest book, Elephants and Kings, Trautmann traces the history of war elephants in India and how their militaristic function helped to preserve their habitat and population, even as most of the uses for elephants—sacrifice, sport, and ivory—were directing the creature toward extinction. However, the kings of India decided to use elephants as both symbols of their power and crucial components of their military. Drawing upon an impressive array of scholarship and looking back over thousands of years, Trautmann’s book is a fascinating and enlightening read. Mahesh Rangarajan, the author of India’s Wildlife History and another celebrated expert on the region, wrote that “no reader will ever view [the elephant] or its human benefactors (or exploiters) again without reference to this fascinating work.”


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