Experiencing Nature: The Spanish American Empire and the Early Scientific Revolution

Paperback | August 11, 2010

byAntonio Barrera-Osorio

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As Spain colonized the Americas during the sixteenth century, Spanish soldiers, bureaucrats, merchants, adventurers, physicians, ship pilots, and friars explored the natural world, gathered data, drew maps, and sent home specimens of America's vast resources of animals, plants, and minerals. This amassing of empirical knowledge about Spain's American possessions had two far-reaching effects. It overturned the medieval understanding of nature derived from Classical texts and helped initiate the modern scientific revolution. And it allowed Spain to commodify and control the natural resources upon which it built its American empire.

In this book, Antonio Barrera-Osorio investigates how Spain's need for accurate information about its American colonies gave rise to empirical scientific practices and their institutionalization, which, he asserts, was Spain's chief contribution to the early scientific revolution. He also conclusively links empiricism to empire-building as he focuses on five areas of Spanish activity in America: the search for commodities in, and the ecological transformation of, the New World; the institutionalization of navigational and information-gathering practices at the Spanish Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade); the development of instruments and technologies for exploiting the natural resources of the Americas; the use of reports and questionnaires for gathering information; and the writing of natural histories about the Americas.

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As Spain colonized the Americas during the sixteenth century, Spanish soldiers, bureaucrats, merchants, adventurers, physicians, ship pilots, and friars explored the natural world, gathered data, drew maps, and sent home specimens of America's vast resources of animals, plants, and minerals. This amassing of empirical knowledge about S...

Antonio Barrera-Osorio is Associate Professor of History at Colgate University in Hamilton, New York.
Format:PaperbackDimensions:223 pages, 8.97 × 6.03 × 0.5 inPublished:August 11, 2010Publisher:University Of Texas PressLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0292725949

ISBN - 13:9780292725942

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsIntroduction1. Searching the Land for Commodities2. A Chamber of Knowledge: The Casa de la Contratación and Its Empirical Methods3. Communities of Experts: Artisans and Innovation in the New World4. Circuits of Information: Reports from the New World5. Books of Nature: Scholars, Natural History, and the New WorldConclusions: The Politics of KnowledgeAppendix 1. Pilots and Cosmographers at the Casa de la ContrataciónAppendix 2. InstrumentsAppendix 3. Spanish Scientific BooksNotesBibliographyIndex

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“A very significant contribution. . . . This book tells a story that is usually left out of the master narrative of the history of exploration. . . . Moreover, it tells a story based on real expeditions and experiences, and it quotes liberally and effectively from engaging reports and sixteenth-century treatises, so it should appeal to general readers as well.”-Carla Rahn Phillips, Union Pacific Professor in Comparative Early Modern History, University of MinnesotaAs Spain colonized the Americas during the sixteenth century, Spanish soldiers, bureaucrats, merchants, adventurers, physicians, ship pilots, and friars explored the natural world, gathered data, drew maps, and sent home specimens of America's vast resources of animals, plants, and minerals. This amassing of empirical knowledge about Spain's American possessions had two far-reaching effects. It overturned the medieval understanding of nature derived from Classical texts and helped initiate the modern scientific revolution. And it allowed Spain to commodify and control the natural resources upon which it built its American empire. In this book, Antonio Barrera-Osorio investigates how Spain's need for accurate information about its American colonies gave rise to empirical scientific practices and their institutionalization, which, he asserts, was Spain's chief contribution to the early scientific revolution. He also conclusively links empiricism to empire-building as he focuses on five areas of Spanish activity in America: the search for commodities in, and the ecological transformation of, the New World; the institutionalization of navigational and information-gathering practices at the Spanish Casa de la Contratación (House of Trade); the development of instruments and technologies for exploiting the natural resources of the Americas; the use of reports and questionnaires for gathering information; and the writing of natural histories about the Americas.A very significant contribution.... This book tells a story that is usually left out of the master narrative of the history of exploration.... Moreover, it tells a story based on real expeditions and experiences, and it quotes liberally and effectively from engaging reports and sixteenth-century treatises, so it should appeal to general readers as well. - Carla Rahn Phillips, Union Pacific Professor in Comparative Early Modern History, University of Minnesota