Nature as a political question: Alexander von Humboldt and power networks

Bernat Lladó i Mas


The life and work of the Prussian geographer and naturalist Alexander von Humboldt continues to fascinate, even today. This is partly because his figure concentrates and synthesises the movements, ideas, and even the great contradictions of the time of profound change that was nineteenth-century Europe. One of these great contradictions is the relationship between science and power. While on the one hand science was demanding its autonomy and universal value, its «purity», and objectivity more than ever before, on the other, the field was often entangled in questions of political and economic power. In an era in which European countries were intensifying their race for world control, information and knowledge about nature gave them a vanguard position when it came to managing this control. Here, we situate Alexander von Humboldt’s innovative geographical work in this context.


geography; Alexander von Humboldt; nature; networks of power; landscape

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