The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies

by Nicol?s Wey G?mez
     
 

ISBN-10: 0262232642

ISBN-13: 9780262232647

Pub. Date: 06/30/2008

Publisher: MIT Press

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the
Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás
Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas,
casting it as part of

Overview

Everyone knows that in 1492 Christopher Columbus sailed west across the
Atlantic, seeking a new route to the East. Few note, however, that Columbus's intention was also to sail south, to the tropics. In The Tropics of Empire, Nicolás
Wey Gómez rewrites the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas,
casting it as part of Europe's reawakening to the natural and human resources of the
South. Wey Gómez shows that Columbus shared in a scientific and technical tradition that linked terrestrial latitude to the nature of places, and that he drew a highly consequential distinction between the higher, cooler latitudes of Mediterranean
Europe and the globe's lower, hotter latitudes. The legacy of Columbus's assumptions, Wey Gómez contends, ranges from colonialism and slavery in the early
Caribbean to the present divide between the industrialized North and the developing
South. This distinction between North and South allowed Columbus to believe not only that he was heading toward the largest and richest lands on the globe but also that the people he would encounter there were bound to possess a nature (whether
"childish" or "monstrous") that seemed to justify rendering them
Europe's subjects or slaves. The political lessons Columbus drew from this distinction provided legitimacy to a process of territorial expansion that was increasingly being construed as the discovery of the vast and unexpectedly productive "torrid zone." The Tropics of Empire investigates the complicated nexus between place and colonialism in Columbus's invention of the
American tropics. It tells the story of a culture intent on remaining the moral center of an expanding geography that was slowly relegating Europe to the northern fringe of the globe. Wey Gómez draws on sources that include official debates over
Columbus's proposal to the Spanish crown, Columbus's own writings and annotations,
and accounts by early biographers. The Tropics of Empire is illustrated by color reproductions of period maps that make vivid the geographical conceptions of
Columbus and his contemporaries. Nicolás Wey Gómez is Assistant Professor of
Hispanic Studies at Brown University.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780262232647
Publisher:
MIT Press
Publication date:
06/30/2008
Series:
Transformations: Studies in the History of Science and Technology
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
616
Product dimensions:
8.30(w) x 9.10(h) x 2.30(d)
Age Range:
18 Years

Table of Contents


List of Figures     xi
Preface     xiii
Acknowledgments     xvii
Introduction: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies     1
Machina Mundi: The Moral Authority of Place in the Early Transatlantic Encounter     59
Columbus and the Open Geography of the Ancients     107
The Meaning of India in Pre-Columbian Europe     159
From Place to Colonialism in the Aristotelian Tradition     229
En la Parte del Sol: Iberia's Invention of the Afro-Indian Tropics, 1434-1494     293
Between Cathay and a Hot Place: Reorienting the Asia-America Debate     335
The Tropics of Empire in Columbus's Diario     393
Notes     435
Bibliography     535
Index     569

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