Humboldtian Science

Connecting the New World. Nets, mobility and progress in the Age of Alexander von Humboldt

HiN - Internationale Zeitschrift für Humboldt Studien <br />              ISSN: 1617-5239Autor: Moritz von Brescius

erschienen in HiN XIII, 25 (2012)

This article explores the link between the profound technological transformations of the nineteenth century and the life and work of the Prussian scholar Alexander von Humboldt (1769-1859). It analyses how Humboldt sought to appropriate the revolutionary new communication and transportation technologies of the time in order to integrate the American continent into global networks of commercial, intellectual and material exchange. To comprehend Humboldt’s approval for human interventions in America’s natural world, this study first explores the role that eighteenth-century theories of progress and the notion of geographical determinism played in shaping his conception of civilisational development. It will look at concrete examples of transformative interventions in the American hemisphere that were actively proposed by Humboldt and intended to overcome natural obstacles to human interaction. These were the use of steamships, electric telegraphy, railroads and large-scale canals that together enabled global trade and communication to occur at an unprecedented pace. All these contemporary innovations will be linked to the four motifs of nets, mobility, progress and acceleration, which were driving forces behind the „transformation of the world“ that took place in the course of the nineteenth century.

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  • Chapter 1
  • Chapter 2
  • Chapter 3
  • – steamships
  • – telegraphy
  • – railways
  • – the canal
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • How to cite

Katharina Einert

Katharina Einert - Studium der Romanistik und Allgemeinen und Vergleichenden Literaturwissenschaft an der Universität Potsdam. Wissenschaftliche Hilfskraft am Lehrstuhl für französisch- und spanischsprachige Literatur (Prof. Dr. Ottmar Ette), Institut für Romanistik, Universität Potsdam. Seit 2011 Promotion unter Betreuung von Prof. Dr. Gesine Müller, Romanisches Seminar, Universität zu Köln.

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