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The Tenacious Travels of the Torrid Zone and the Global Dimensions of Geographical Knowledge in the Eighteenth Century

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AbstractThis article sets out to explore the longevity and tenacity of the torrid zone as an explanatory mechanism for describing the cultural characteristics of those populations living between the tropics during the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. By examining a series of colonizing missions and scientific expeditions to the New World, it argues that long before the iconic voyage of Alexander von Humboldt, which is thought to inaugurate a modern conception of the tropics, European travelers and natural philosophers were molding earlier geographical theories in ways that extended the life of certain pejorative stereotypes about non-European peoples. As such, it represents an important example of how geographical knowledge traveled across imperial lines and, more importantly, challenges scholars to use more expansive temporal ranges that normally separate the pre-European history of the Americas from its post-conquest phase.

Affiliations: 1: The John Carter Brown Library


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