Mapping Skies and Continents: The Production of Two Portuguese Scientific Atlases in the Era of Napoleonic Expansion (1799-1813)




Terrestrial Atlas, Celestial Atlas, Portuguese Imperial Mapmakers, Astronomy, Scientific Networks


To what extend the circulation of scientific knowledge was shaped by the European imperial geopolitics in the late-eighteenth century? Recruited to fulfill tasks increasingly considered essential to the very workings of imperial administrations, scientific practitioners of the time paradoxically seem to make use precisely of this encroachment in state apparatuses to secure some degree of autonomy for their nascent field. Thus, every material form of circulation of scientific information must be ultimately understood as an act of political consequences. Here we present these ideas through the analysis of two concrete scientific artifacts, which can exemplify the circulation of scientific information inside and across empires: two atlases, one terrestrial and one celestial (the latter being a version of Flamsteed’s famous atlas of 1729, by way of intermediate French editions), produced in Portugal at the turn of the nineteenth century. Discarding the simple assumption that such cartographic artifacts might have a “utilitarian” use to Portuguese imperial administration, we aim to insist on their political and communicative nature, grounded on their modes of participation in trans-imperial pathways of circulation of knowledge, people, practices, and models of scientific authority (entangling Britain, France, and the Americas in multiple time scales). We also highlight how the atlases contribute to the affirmation of new patriotic science in Portugal, and explore the markedly didactic vocation of both objects, which also stress the question of the recruitment and reproduction of a new kind of imperial elite.


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How to Cite

Kantor, I. ., & Haddad, T. A. S. . (2021). Mapping Skies and Continents: The Production of Two Portuguese Scientific Atlases in the Era of Napoleonic Expansion (1799-1813). Culture &Amp; History Digital Journal, 10(2), e020.




Funding data

Ministerio de Economía y Competitividad
Grant numbers PGC2018-095224-B-I00