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Scientific Republics – Knowledge, engineering, society and state building in Latin America 1790–1870 – Coord. Annick Lempérière
Annick Lempérière

Scientific Republics – Knowledge, engineering, society and state building in Latin America 1790–1870

[19/02/2019]

Texte intégral

  • 1 Romano, Antonella, « Fabriquer l’histoire des sciences modernes. Réflexions sur une discipline à l’ (...)
  • 2 Jami, Catherine, Petitjean, Patrick, Molin, Anne-Marie, Science and Empire : Historical Studies abo (...)
  • 3 Gerbi, Antonello, La disputa del Nuevo Mundo. Historia de una polémica, 1750-1900, Mexico, Fondo de (...)
  • 4 Glick, Thomas F., « Science and Independence in Latin America (with special reference to New Granad (...)

1Over the last few decades a renewed focus upon the history of science has been characterized by an aperture looking beyond Europe1 and, especially, toward Latin America. It has been further opened by the study of the relationship between knowledge and power. A growing body of work has emerged on the topics of imperial science2, the colonial contribution to the advancement of knowledge3, and the links among sciences, revolution and independence in non-European territories4. Science and knowledge have become meaningful issues regarding the consolidation of states and nations in the late 19th century. This period runs parallel to the affirmation of the positivist paradigm and the integration of Latin America into the world economy. However, scholars of Latin America are only just beginning to take an interest in the intermediary period stretching from the Enlightenment to scientism. Conventional wisdom still considers these decades as “lost”, whether in the area of state building, economic performance or the social and cultural integration of mixed and heterogeneous populations.

  • 5 It originated in an international colloquium held at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, f (...)
  • 6 Vries, Jan de, « The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution », The Journal of Economi (...)

2This special issue5 explores the opposite hypothesis and demonstrates both the ways by which the legacy of the imperial Enlightenment was passed on and transformed, and the processes by which late 19th century Latin American societies, including the Spanish colonies in the Caribbean, were quickly able to take full advantage of the positivist paradigm. Scholarship of the past two decades has discussed the concept of “industrious revolution”6, showing that part of the taking off of the 19th century in Europe and the US was due to the use of traditional technique, animal force and home-based work. This perspective seems to partly fill the gap between a supposedly archaic Latin America and a modern North Atlantic World.

  • 7 We prefer « transformation » to the notion of « scientific revolution » which has been strongly cal (...)

3At the global scale, a scientific and technical transformation occurred between the closing decades of the eighteenth and the last third of the 19th century coinciding with the political revolutions7. This special issue demonstrates how Latin American societies took part in these changes and how they were linked to statecraft and to new ways of governing land and people. Based on case studies, it explores the relationship between the revolutionary transition from empire to nationhood and the contemporary transformation in science and technology. It shows how the transnational knowledge regarding engineering, public health, natural history, chemistry, or statistics permeated and modified the mechanisms of government and welfare policy.

4The new independent states of Latin America called upon expertise, technology and science in order to assert their sovereignty. Despite their limited means, the governments were able to stimulate the emergence of institutions and scholarly networks. Several papers underscore the importance of individual and local initiatives in the preservation, production and dissemination of knowledge. This reassessment calls into question the widely held belief that the post-independence decades represented a period of stagnation or even regression. On the contrary, the contributions highlight how individuals promoted their inventions; how learned societies take in hand the production and transmission of knowledge; and how local, regional or national public authorities acquired a better awareness of their population, territory and natural environment. In contrast to the image of a region turning in on itself, several papers shed light on the growth of transnational networks of knowledge. In doing so, they challenge the misconception that the sub-continent permanently lagged behind a triumphant North Atlantic “modernity”. It is, of course, not a matter of replacing the “black legend” with a triumphalist picture. This process of innovation was able to build upon older bodies of knowledge, such as law, and on traditional institutions, such as the military, as they permeated societies still shaped by their imperial past.

5Since knowledge in any society is the product of society itself, the authors follow the steps of individuals and groups dedicated to the production of knowledge and its dissemination – be they administrators, soldiers, or scientists, businessmen or mechanics. They highlights the networks and associations in which knowledge was discussed and shared and the social milieus in which the interaction of scientific and technical knowledge with public action was actualized. It also reveals the types of circulation that linked these milieus to national and Euro-American scientific communities.

6Insofar as the strength of the state was open to question during this period, public agency is examined using a concrete, multifaceted approach. It focuses both on the national government and its bureaucracy, and on the authorities at the provincial or local level. It shows the social interactions by which the authorities were able to obtain information on their people and territory; on production and commercial activity; and, how public statistics came into being. By calling into question the traditionally accepted historical sequence of revolutionary breakdown, it also underlines how they frequently recycled and updated knowledge accumulated during the imperial period.

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Notes

1 Romano, Antonella, « Fabriquer l’histoire des sciences modernes. Réflexions sur une discipline à l’ère de la mondialisation », Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 2015, n°2, pp. 381-408 ; Schaffer, Simon, Trabajos de cristal : ensayos de historia de la ciencia, 1650-1900 (translated by M. Martínez-Lage and J. Pimentel), Madrid, Marcial Pons, 2011 ; Schaffer, Simon, La Fabrique des sciences modernes (XVIIe-XIXe siècles) (translated by F. Aït-Touati, L. Marcou et S. Van Damme), Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 2014 ; Bruno Latour, Science in Action : How to Follow Scientists and Engineers through Society, Milton Keynes, Open University Press, 1987 ; Safier, Neil, « Global Knowledge on the Move. Itineraries, Amerindian Narratives, and Deep Histories of Science », Isis, 2010, vol. 101, n° 1, p. 133-145.

2 Jami, Catherine, Petitjean, Patrick, Molin, Anne-Marie, Science and Empire : Historical Studies about Scientific Development and European Expansion, Dordrecht, Kluwer, 1992 ; Delbourgo, James, Dew, Nicholas (eds.), Science and Empire in the Atlantic World, New-York, Routledge, 2008 ; Stuchtey, Benedict (ed.), Science across the European Empires, 1800-1950, Oxford, Oxford University Press, 2005 ; Pimentel, Juan, « The Iberian Vision : Science and Empire in the Framework of a Universal Monarchy, 1500-1800 », Osiris, 2000, vol. 15, Nature and Empire : Science in the Colonial Enterprise, pp. 17-30 ; Portuondo, María M., Secret Science : Spanish Cosmography and the New World, Chiacago, University of Chicago Press, 2009 ; De Vos, Paula, « Natural History and the Pursuit of Empire in Eighteenth-Century Spain », Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2007, vol. 40, n° 2, p. 209-239 ; Akerman, James (ed.), The Imperial Map : Cartography and the Mastery of Empire, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 2009 ; Reinhartz, Denis, Saxon, Gerald D. (eds), Mapping and Empire : Soldiers-Engineers on the Southwestern Frontier, 2005, Austin, University of Texas Press ; Brendecke, Arndt, Imperio e información. Funciones del saber en el dominio colonial español (translated by Griselda Mársico), Madrid, Iberoamericana-Vervuet, 2012 ; Safier, Neil, Measuring the New World : Enlightenment Science and South America, Chicago, Chicago University Press, 2008 ; Nieto Olarte, Mauricio, Las máquinas del imperio y el reino de Dios. Reflexiones sobre ciencia, tecnología y religión en el mundo atlántico del siglo XVI, Bogotá, Ediciones Uniandes, 2013.

3 Gerbi, Antonello, La disputa del Nuevo Mundo. Historia de una polémica, 1750-1900, Mexico, Fondo de Cultura Económica, 1955 ; Saldaña, Juan José (ed.), Science in Latin America : A History (translated by Bernabé Madrigal), Austin, University of Texas Press, 2006 (more concerned with ideas and institutions than with the social dimension of science and knowledge) ; Cañizares-Esguerra, Jorge, Nature, Empire, and Nation : Explorations of the History of Science in the Iberian World, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2006 ; Mc Cook, Stuart, States of nature : Science, Agriculture, and Environment in the Spanish Caribbean, 1760-1940, Austin, University of Texas Press, 2002 ; Cowie, Helen, Conquering Nature in Spain and Its Empire, 1750-1850, Manchester, Manchester University Press, 2011 ; Bleichmar, Daniela, De Vos, Daniela, Huffine, Kristin, and Sheehan, Kevin (eds.), Science in the Spanish and Portuguese Empires, 1500-1800, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 2009 ; Figueirôa, Silvia, da Silva, Clarete, « Enlightened Mineralogists : Mining Knowledge in Colonial Brazil, 1750-1825 », Osiris, 2000, vol. 15, Nature and Empire : Science and the Colonial Enterprise, p. 174-189 ; Obregón, Diana (ed.), Culturas científicas y saberes locales : Asimilación, hibridación y resistencia, Bogotá, Universidad Nacional Colombiana, 2000 ; Ferreira Furtado, Júnio, « Enlightenment Science and Iconoclasm : The Brazilian Naturalist José Vieira Couto », Osiris, 2010, vol. 25, n° 1, pp. 189-212 ; about the « historiographic renewel » of the history of science in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, see Horta Duarte, Regina, « Between the National and the Universal. Natural History Networks in Latin America in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries », Isis, 2013, vol. 104, n° 4, pp. 777-787.

4 Glick, Thomas F., « Science and Independence in Latin America (with special reference to New Granada) », The Hispanic American Historical Review, 1991, vol. 71, n° 2, pp. 307-334 ; Díez Torres, Alejandro Román, Mallo Gutiérrez, Tomás, Pacheco Fernández, Daniel (eds.), De la ciencia ilustrada a la ciencia romántica ; actas de las II jornadas sobre “España y las expediciones científicas en América y Filipinas”, Madrid, Ediciones Docecalles, 1995 ; Rudwick, Martin J. S., The New Science of Geology : Studies in the Earth Sciences in the Age of Revolution, Aldershot, Ashgate Publishing, 2004.

5 It originated in an international colloquium held at the University of Paris I Panthéon-Sorbonne, from January 29th to 31st, 2015, which was organized by Annick Lempérière (Université Paris I) and Clément Thibaud (EHESS).

6 Vries, Jan de, « The Industrial Revolution and the Industrious Revolution », The Journal of Economic History, 1994, vol. 54, n° 2, pp. 249-270 ; Vries, Jan de, The Industrious Revolution : Consumer Behavior and the Household Economy, 1650 to the present, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

7 We prefer « transformation » to the notion of « scientific revolution » which has been strongly called into question over past decades ; cf. Jorland, Gérard, « La notion de révolution scientifique aujourd’hui », Revue européenne des sciences sociales, 2002, [En ligne], mis en ligne le 01 décembre 2009. URL : http://ress.revues.org/579 ; DOI : 10.4000/ress.579. Consulté le 15 février 2019 ; Pestre, Dominique, Raj, Kapil, Sibum H. Otto (dir.), Histoire des sciences et des savoirs, Vol. 2, Modernité et Globalisation, Paris, Éditions du Seuil, 2015 ; and its discerning reading by Chartier, Roger, « Sciences et savoirs », Annales. Histoire, Sciences Sociales, 2016, n° 2, pp. 451-464.

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Annick Lempérière, « Scientific Republics – Knowledge, engineering, society and state building in Latin America 1790–1870 », Nuevo Mundo Mundos Nuevos [En ligne], Débats, mis en ligne le 19 février 2019, consulté le 15 septembre 2019. URL : http://journals.openedition.org/nuevomundo/75686 ; DOI : 10.4000/nuevomundo.75686

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Annick Lempérière

Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne
UMR 8168 – Mondes Américains

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