Humanist Travel Writing ascent of empiricism and the on the spot

Peter Gottschalk

in Religion, Science, and Empire

Published in print December 2012 | ISBN: 9780195393019
Published online January 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780199979264 | DOI:
Humanist Travel Writing ascent of empiricism and the on the spot

Show Summary Details


A different set of travelogues, influenced more by the empiricism of a burgeoning scientism, diverged from the theologically motivated examples of this genre investigated in the previous chapter. Although continuities remained with earlier travel writing traditions, new ideas gave rise to the preeminence of “on the spot” reporting that privileged the authority of observation over tradition and humanism over theology. This illustrates an important new development in the ethnographic mode of comparison. The landscape artists Thomas and William Daniell literally illustrated this difference with the sketches and paintings recording their visit to Chainpur in 1790. This uncle-and-nephew team's corpus of art significantly shaped British views of India for generations. Although scientistic empiricism informed these images and the written accounts of later British and Indian travel writers, religion remained a central category by which they differentiated between Indian communities right until independence. Ultimately, this demonstrates the influence of ethnographic comparison on the scientific discipline of anthropology as it coalesced in the nineteenth century. The travel writing of Thomas Twining, Francis Buchanan, Ram Gopal Singh Chowdhari, and Gordon M. Ray will also be considered.

Keywords: humanism; ethnography; travelogues; travel writing; empiricism; Daniell; Buchanan; Twining; Chowdhari

Chapter.  18928 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Religious Studies

Full text: subscription required

How to subscribe Recommend to my Librarian

Buy this work at Oxford University Press »

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content. Please, subscribe or login to access all content.