Alexander von Humboldt: Circulation of State-Knowledge in Europe and Latin America

December 04 | 19:00

Alexander von Humboldt's journey through the American societies is often understood as the starting point of a new era in the transatlantic knowledge economies. Against this unidimensional perspective, this conference will embed the figure of von Humboldt within long-term developments that shaped institutions and scientific exchange between Europe and Latin America since the 18th century. It will discuss the circulation of experts and objects in the times of state reform in the different Empires, the role of state expertise and the newly founded scientific institutions for the economic development, the influence of international political shifts and of the Latin American independence. The conference presents the manifold forms of knowledge circulation, the different contexts of evolution and, finally, the entanglements of different fields of knowledge between Europe and Latin America in the 18th and 19th century.

Invited speakers are: Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (Austin, Texas), Nuria Valverde Pérez (Cuajimalpa), Gabe Paquette (Eugene, Oregon), José Enrique Covarubias (Mexico City), Carlos Rodrigo Sanhueza Cerda (Santiago de Chile), Glenn Penny (Iowa City), Lina M. del Castillo (Austin, Texas), Darina Martykánová (Madrid), Lothar Schilling (Augsburg), Jakob Vogel (Paris / Berlin), Sandra Carreras (Berlin), Pierre Nobi (Paris), Alexander van Wickeren (Köln), Fabricio Prado (Williamsburg, Virginia), Clément Thibaud (Paris), Mathieu Aguilera (Paris), Ulrich Päßler (Berlin), Helge Wendt (Berlin).

Public Keynote Lecture on December, 4 at the IAI (auditorium "Simon Bolivar"):
Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (Austin, Texas)
Epistemological Colonialism: from Humboldt to the present (and back again)


Jakob Vogel
jakob.vogel  ( at )  cmb.hu-berlin.de


Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut, Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte


Berlin, December 4–6, 2019

December 4, 2019

7.00 pm
Welcome by Barbara Göbel(Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut SPK, Berlin)
Keynote by Jorge Cañizares-Esguerra (University of Texas, Austin)
On Epistemological Colonialism: from Humboldt to the present (and back again)

At: Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut SPK, Potsdamer Str. 37


December 5, 2019

At: Centre Marc Bloch, Friedrichstraße 191

9.00 am: Registration

9.30 am: Introduction

Jakob Vogel (CMB /Sciences Po, Paris) and Helge Wendt (MPIWG)
Introduction to the Conference

Lothar Schilling (University of Augsburg)
State Reform by Circulating Knowledge. Remarks on Enlightened Concepts and its Long-Term Effects

10.30 am Coffee Break

11.00 am

PANEL 1: State Experts and the Economic Development

Chair: Fidel José Tavarez Simó (Freie Universität Berlin)

Nuria Valverde Pérez (Universidad Autónoma Metropolitana, Cuajimalpa)
In Pursuit of (Public) Goods: Civil Servants, Knowledge and the Alternative Futures of the Spanish Empire

Gabe Paquette (University of Oregon, Eugene)
Linkages between political economy and statecraft in the Spanish and Luso-Brazilian worlds (Jovellanos, Malaspina, Souza Coutinho and Silva Lisbon)

Jakob Vogel (Sciences Po, Paris / Centre Marc Bloch, Berlin)
State knowledge in the times of economic liberalism. Alexander von Humboldt, Jean-Baptiste Boussingault and the "Latin American mining boom" of the 1820s and 1830s

12.30 am Lunch Break

Panel 2: Creating Knowledge for the Independent Nation States

Chair: Birgit Aschmann (Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin)

Fabrício Prado (William and Mary, Williamsburg)
Networks of Knowledge and Revolution in Rio de la Plata and Brazil: the Emergence of the Banda Oriental (1777–1822)

Eduardo Torres Cuevas (Biblioteca Nacional de Cuba, José Marti, Habana)
El nacimiento de las ciencias modernas en Cuba. El efecto Humboldt

3.30 pm Coffee Break

Clément Thibaud (École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, Paris)
Humboldt and the Illustrados de New Grana: From Natural Laws to Constitutional Invention

Lina M. del Castillo (University of Texas, Austin)
Broken Polity, Forgotten Science: Humboldt’s Scientific Network in the Shaping and Fragmenting of the Gran Colombian Republic, 1820–1830

Glenn Penny (University of Iowa)
Harnessing Humboldt: German Science and State-Building in Central America in the Second Half of the 19th century

December 6, 2019

At: Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Boltzmannstraße 22


Panel 3: The Atlantic World as a Crossroad of Experts

Chair: Sebastian Jobs (Freie Universität Berlin)

Pierre Nobi (Sciences Po, Paris)
Rediscovering America, rediscovering yellow fever. Alexander von Humboldt’s study of the vómito negro of Veracruz in the context of the circulation of medical and state knowledge in the Atlantic world (1790s–1820s)

Alexander van Wickeren (Universität zu Köln)
From the Spanish Empire to the Rhine Region? Alexander von Humboldt, Agricultural Enlightenment and Tobacco Cultivation around 1800

José Enrique Covarubias (UNAM)
Humboldt's knowledge about land and people in the North-West regions of New Spain

11.00 Coffee

Panel 4: Mobilizing New Resources for the Public Good

Chair: Lucía Lewowicz (Universidad de la República Oriental de Uruguay, Montevideo)

Helge Wendt (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science, Berlin)
Humboldt and the 19th-century American energy crisis

Ulrich Päßler (BBAW)
The invisible hand of nature? Humboldt’s concept of dynamic equilibrium between natural research, universal history and political economy

12.30 Lunch Break


Panel 5: Networks of Persons and Objects between Europe and Latin America

Chair: Peter Birle (IAI SPK, Berlin)

Darina Martykánová (CSIC, Madrid)
Trasnatlantic Careers: Foreign Engineers in Latin America, Latin American Engineers all around the World

Sandra Carreras (Ibero-Amerikanisches Institut SPK, Berlin)
On Humboldt’s Path? German-speaking experts in South America

Carlos Rodrigo Sanhueza Cerda (Universidad de Chile)
A cosmos under construction. Alexander von Humboldt and the mobility of data and instruments in the global circulation of knowledge

3.30 pm Coffeee Break

4.00 Final Discussion