Transforming the Torrid Zone: Registers of Tropical Nature in the Enlightenment

TitleTransforming the Torrid Zone: Registers of Tropical Nature in the Enlightenment
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2011
AuthorsSafier, N
ISBN Number0395-2649
KeywordsArid Zones, article, Eighteenth Century, Enlightenment, Historians, Intervention, SOUTH America

This essay pursues an environmental history of the tropics by following the narrative techniques of writers who traversed the equatorial landscapes of South America during the eighteenth century. With few exceptions, environmental historians concerned with the tropics have underestimated the importance of the literary genres through which eighteenth-century authors engaged with the natural world. These varied techniques, including the use of technologies of collection, inscription, and measurement, played a role in transforming the image of the equatorial regions of the globe from a place that was understood to be an inhospitable desert to one that was characterized by more varied climatic conditions and diverse natural products. This metamorphosis of the Torrid Zone was affected through a broad series of editorial interventions: from historical treatises to lists and catalogs, carried out by philosophical travelers and naturalists alike. Adapted from the source document.