Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado

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9780226081205: Masters of All They Surveyed: Exploration, Geography, and a British El Dorado

Chronicling the British pursuit of the legendary El Dorado, Masters of All They Surveyed tells the fascinating story of geography, cartography, and scientific exploration in Britain's unique South American colony, Guyana. How did nineteenth-century Europeans turn areas they called terra incognita into bounded colonial territories? How did a tender-footed gentleman, predisposed to seasickness (and unable to swim), make his way up churning rivers into thick jungle, arid savanna, and forbidding mountain ranges, survive for the better part of a decade, and emerge with a map? What did that map mean?

In answering these questions, D. Graham Burnett brings to light the work of several such explorers, particularly Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, the man who claimed to be the first to reach the site of Ralegh's El Dorado. Commissioned by the Royal Geographical Society and later by the British Crown, Schomburgk explored and mapped regions in modern Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana, always in close contact with Amerindian communities. Drawing heavily on the maps, reports, and letters that Schomburgk sent back to England, and especially on the luxuriant images of survey landmarks in his Twelve Views in the Interior of Guiana (reproduced in color in this book), Burnett shows how a vast network of traverse surveys, illustrations, and travel narratives not only laid out the official boundaries of British Guiana but also marked out a symbolic landscape that fired the British imperial imagination.

Engagingly written and beautifully illustrated, Masters of All They Surveyed will interest anyone who wants to understand the histories of colonialism and science.

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About the Author:

D. Graham Burnett is an assistant professor in the Honors College and a member of the history of science program at the University of Oklahoma.

From Library Journal:

The history of the formation of the current country of Guyana is little known. Burnett (fellow, Ctr. for Scholars and Writers, NYPL) has written a fascinating book on the early period of this former British colony in northern South America. Burnett, who aimed to write a study on the history of science, examines the history of mapmaking and geography as it relates to the discovery and formation of the British Empire in this part of the Americas. Focusing on mid-1800s explorer Sir Robert H. Schomburgk, who under the auspices of the Royal Geographical Society explored and mapped a region that is now part of Brazil, Venezuela, and Guyana, Burnett shows that the activities of Schomburgk and other explorers essentially determined the official boundaries of what became British Guiana. This well-written and easy-to-follow study will be of value to collections on Latin America, the British Isles, and travel. Mark L. Grover, Brigham Young Univ., Pleasant Grove, UT
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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