University of Erfurt

Projekt von Dr. Tomás Bartoletti

Gotha cartography and Swiss entanglements in nineteenth century’s Latin America: Johann Jakob von Tschudi’s voyages and his publications in the "Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen"

My postdoctoral project aims to research a paradigmatic case in the global history of knowledge and in the history of what a group of scholars has recently called “Colonial Switzerland”. Focusing on the Glarus-born naturalist Johann Jakob von Tschudi and his voyages in Latin America during the mid-nineteenth century, it examines his diplomatic and scientific career within an extensive global network of scientific expertise and economic enterprises in Latin America and Europe. In view of Tschudi’s agency in these entanglements, it explores to what extent his activity could be considered as part of a Swiss informal imperialism by means of quasi-colonial practices. The historiography of “Colonial Switzerland” and the historiography of the global history of knowledge has tended to overlook Tschudi’s career and his expertise in many disciplines (zoology, geology, chemistry, archaeology, ethnolinguistics), as well as a diplomat in Brazil and Austria, and as a collector and trader of archaeological and natural objects that formed the beginnings of Swiss ethnological and natural science collections.

A stay in the Forschungszentrum Gotha will allow me to enrich this project in different ways. Firstly, in its library there are central works of Tschudi’s output, such as Peru, Reiseskizzen, 1838–1842 (St. Gallen, 1846), Die Kechuasprache (Vienna, 1853) and Reisen durch Südamerika (Leipzig, 1866-69), among others. Secondly, Tschudi collaborated in the preparation of two cartographic publications in the Petermanns Geographische Mitteilungen (Nr. 2, T.1. “Reise durch die Andes von Süd-Amerika”; Nr. 9, T 1. “Die brasilianische Provinz Minas Geraes”). Not only are these publications kept in Gotha, but in the archive of the editorial body of PGM (SPA PGM: 352) there are also twenty letters from Tschudi to Petermann and the copies of the replies, together with other documents. The materials available at the Gotha Library and the Perthes Forum will enable me to approach the study of Tschudi using his most relevant publications, but also develop a specific case within his broad academic output by showing the networks established around cartography between Brazil, Switzerland, Austria and Germany during the mid-nineteenth century.


Tomás Bartoletti earned his PhD in Classical Philology (2018) from the University of Buenos Aires. At first, he read Latin American Linguistics and Literature at University of Buenos Aires and History and Sociology of Science and Technology at the University of Quilmes (Argentina). Before coming to the Forschungszentrum Gotha, Bartoletti was Guest in University of Essen-Duisburg (2006), University of Zürich (2012), Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin (2014-2016) and Max-Weber-Kolleg at the University of Erfurt (2017-2018). From July 2019, he will be a Fellow at the Chair for History of the Modern World of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) in Zürich.



User menu and language choice