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The Science of Useful Nature in Central America
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  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Expected online publication date: August 2020
  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online ISBN: 9781108367615
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Book description

In this ambitious new study, Sophie Brockmann argues that interactions with landscape and environment were central to the construction of Central American identities in the Age of Enlightenment. She argues that new intellectual connections and novel ways of understanding landscapes had a transformative impact on political culture, as patriotic reformers sought to improve the region's fortunes by applying scientific and 'useful' knowledge gathered from local and global networks to the land. These reformers established networks that extended into the countryside and far beyond Central America's borders. Tracing these networks and following the bureaucrats, priests, labourers, merchants and scholars within them, Brockmann shows how they made a lasting impact by defining a new place for the natural world in narratives of nation and progress.


‘Moving well beyond the well-trodden historical terrain of Western Europe and the British Atlantic World, The Science of Useful Nature in Central America forcefully demonstrates how new insights into the histories of science, Enlightenment, and modernity as well as colonialism and the nation-state can be gained by considering these phenomena from the perspective of the Kingdom of Granada.’

Matthew James Crawford - Kent State University

‘Brockmann’s ground-breaking book expertly and engagingly brings Central America into view as eighteenth- and nineteenth century reformers saw it, a laboratory in which scientific engagement was harnessed to encourage economic development, state making and cultural change. Deeply researched and compelling, her argument and analysis will inspire students and scholars interested in the history of science and Atlantic history, and will be a must read for those working on the region.’

Jordana Dym - Skidmore College, New York

‘Sophie Brockmann’s learned and elegant treatment of Central American science in the age of Enlightenment will change the way we think about knowledge-making in Spanish America. While never losing sight of the ground-level view - ruins and rice and plantains - The Science of Useful Nature in Central America offers expansive, novel panoramas on a new world epistemology that is both distinctly Central American and ineluctably global.’

Sylvia Sellers-García - Boston College


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