Relevant Secondary Sources
Overview: This section of the website contains summary and analysis of works that assist in the reading of The Invention of Nature by Andrea Wulf.
Karl S. Zimmerer, "Humboldt and the History of Environmental Thought"
Summary/Analysis: Zimmerer's article is in response to essays that were presented on a panel about Alexander von Humboldt and the "recent revival" into his life and studies. Zimmerer goes on to include that von Humboldt's ideas of nature "regained relevance in the context of today's heightened concerns over environmental change, human-induced crises, and conservation." Zimmerer then goes on to summarize the panelists' presentations. He concludes that much of Humboldt's acquisition of knowledge and ideas centered on his curiosity of the Andes mountains.
Zimmerer, Karl S. "Humboldt and the History of Environmental Thought." Ebscohost. N.p., n.d. Web.
Aaron Sachs, "Humboldt's Legacy and the Restoration of Science"
Summary/Analysis: Aaron Sachs article perpetuates the "great man" narrative that follows von Humboldt across disciplines. Sachs also links von Humboldt's "discovery" of the world's interconnectivity to today's "ecological crisis." The article also goes on to indicate that von Humboldt was "still a man of his time: in general, he approved of the development of the New World," which reaffirms von Humboldt's aristocratic and Eurocentric ideas and background. Finally, Sachs suggests that ecologists and environmentalists become interdisciplinary fields in order to "include the public at large" in conversations regarding the environment.
Sachs, Aaron. "Humboldt's Legacy and the Restoration of Science." Ebscoehost. N.p., n.d. Web.
Shawn William Miller, "Nature's Conquests"
Summary/Analysis: This excerpt is a chapter from Shawn Miller’s book An Environmental History of Latin America.This chapter takes an unconventional look into the colonization of the Americas. Miller focuses heavily on the impact of pathogens and epidemics in reducing and nearly eliminating the indigenous populations of the Americas. Though, the piece does not completely blame epidemic and disease for the destruction of a group of people but it points to the significant role it played in the reshaping of the Americas post-colonization. Also, the article examines what nature and animals gained or loss due to the expansion of Europeans and the practices they brought with them, for example, the introduction of cows and their impact on the grasslands of the Americas.
Miller, Shawn William. An Environmental History of Latin America. New York: Cambridge UP, 2007. Print.
A book review of Shawn William Miller's An Environmental History of Latin America written by Myrna I. Santiago
Summary/Analysis: The review of Shawn William Miller's An Environmental History of Latin America by Myrna I. Santiago says Miller’s book does a wonderful job and does not leave out the pre-Hispanic civilization from the Latin American Environmental History. Myrna I. Santiago clarifies that his book would be great to use in academia for students trying to know more about the history of Latin America. The issues Santiago had with the book is that the “big countries tend to absorb most of the analysis, such as: Mexico, Brazil, Chile, and Peru."
Santiago, M. I. "An Environmental History of Latin America (review)." The Americas, vol. 65 no. 1, 2008, pp. 106-107. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/tam.0.0028.
Mary Louise Pratt, "Alexander Von Humboldt and the Reinvention of America"
Summary/Analysis: This excerpt is from Pratt’s book Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. In this chapter, Pratt focuses on von Humboldt's narrative style to point out his Eurocentric tendencies to reduce the Americas and its native inhabitants into an exploitable and boundless resource. Pratt also indicates that von Humboldt's writing often omits the native people of that land and focuses instead on what was unspoiled nature.
Pratt, Mary Louise. Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation. London: Routledge, 1992. Print.
A book review of Mary Louise Pratt's Imperial Eyes: Travel Writing and Transculturation written by Brian J. Godfrey
Summary/Analysis: Brian J. Godfrey critiques Mary Louise Pratt’s Imperial Eyes: Travel writing and Transculturation by describing the strengths and weaknesses of her article. The term transcultural defined by Mary Louise Pratt is “metropolitan modes of understanding the appropriated and refashioned by the periphery.” Pratt's work has a Eurocentric bias in representations of Latin America and Africa. Godfrey cautions scholars in different disciplines to be careful when sharing this book with students as it might irritate them because of Pratt's generalizations and political stance. Godfrey says that Imperial Eyes “does provide an engaging interpretation of traveling writing as a popular form of regional representation, which is an important theme for geographical teaching and research.”
Godfrey, Brian J. "Book Reviews." Annals Of The Association Of American Geographers 83.3 (1993): 542. Academic Search Premier. Web. 16 Nov. 2016.
Patricia Fara, "Alexander von Humboldt: A Revolutionary Explorer"
Summary/Analysis: In Alexander von Humboldt: A Revolutionary Explorer, Fara plays in to the "great man" narrative yet pointing out some questionable characteristics regarding von Humboldt. From several of the quotations provided by the article, it becomes apparent that von Humboldt is not considerate of the native peoples found in the regions of his travel. Fara also describes that von Humboldt viewed North America as a kind of duplicate to Europe and South America as a place "where nature flourished exuberantly but high culture was impossible." The article even goes as far as to say that von Humboldt took a Peruvian farming practice and turned it into his own personal discovery.
Fara, Patricia. "Alexander Von Humboldt: A Revolutionary Explorer." ScienceDirect. N.p., n.d. Web.