The incalculable influence of Alexander von Humboldt (1769–1859) on biology, botany, geology, and meteorology deservedly earned him the reputation as the world’s most illustrious scientist before Charles Darwin. Humboldt’s breath-taking explorations of Mexico and South America from 1799 to 1804 are akin to Europe’s second “discovery” of the New World—this time, a scientific one. His Political Essay on the Kingdom of New Spain is a foundational document about Mexico and its cultures and is still widely consulted by anthropologists, geographers, and historians.
In Humboldt’s Mexico, Myron Echenberg presents a straightforward guide with historical and cultural context to Humboldt’s travels in Mexico. Humboldt packed a lifetime of scientific studies into one daunting year, and soon after published a four-volume account of his findings. His adventures range widely from inspections of colonial silver mines and hikes to the summits of volcanoes to meticulous examination of secret Spanish colonial archives in Mexico City and scientific discussions of archaeological sites of pre-Hispanic Indigenous cultures. Echenberg traces Humboldt’s journey, as described in his publications, his diary, and other writings, across the heartland of Mexico, while also pursuing Humboldt’s life, his science, his experiences, his influence on scholars of his time and after, and the various efforts by others to honour and at times to denigrate his legacy.
Part history, part travelogue, and always highly readable and informative, Humboldt’s Mexico is an engaging account of a gifted scientist and visionary that ranges across topics as diverse and broad as natural history was in his era.
Myron Echenberg: Humboldt’s Mexico. In the Footsteps of the Illustrious German Scientific Traveller. Montreal, Quebec: McGill-Queen’s University Press 2017.
236 Seiten, 15,2 x 22,9 cm
19 s/w-Fotos, 7 Farb-Fotos, 1 Karte, 2 Tabellen
$ 39,95 [US]
MYRON ECHENBERG, born 1940, is professor emeritus of history and classical studies at McGill University (Montreal). He is a former winner of the prestigious Herskovits Award for his outstanding original scholarly work in African Studies and was the co-editor of the Canadian Journal of African Studies. His works illustrate his continuing research into the history of health and disease in Africa and the developing world.
William Beezley, University of Arizona
A mediation inspired by Alexander von Humboldt’s 1803-04 journey in Mexico, Myron Echenberg has written an engaging, significant, and wide-ranging account. As a result of both diligent research and careful writing, Humboldt’s Mexico is an important contribution to both the study of Humboldt and to the examination of Mexico in the last years of its colonial experience.
Literary Review of Canada
Myron Echenberg’s lustrous book should take Humboldt’s work and ideas to a whole new generation of readers.