This paper tells the story of the jack (fruit) tree in Jharkhand, India. Using detailed case-study materials, we consider what happened to a ‘tribal’ villager in Ranchi District, Jharkhand, when he sought permission to cut down 10 jack trees on his private land with a view to selling them at the point of stumpage or to a government timber depot. It is a tale not just of corruption and delays, but also of colluding interests across the state–community divide. We also consider how this system was changed, and how the price of jackfruit increased, when trade in this timber was deregulated in the 1990s. In the second part of the paper we revisit these tales and consider what they might tell us about some of the claims that have surfaced in the new environmental history. These claims relate to common property regimes, the organisational cultures of State Forestry Departments, the politics of environmentalism, and the meanings of empowerment
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