Cosmography Codified

in Secret Science

Published by University of Chicago Press

Published in print June 2009 | ISBN: 9780226675343
Published online March 2013 | e-ISBN: 9780226675374 | DOI:
Cosmography Codified

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Between 1570 and 1575, the president of the Council of Indies, Juan de Ovando (d. 1575), instituted several legal measures that incorporated into the bureaucracy of the empire mechanisms for collecting and organizing cosmographical information about the Indies and—crucially—keeping this knowledge secure within the council's confines. His actions were a consequence of increasing problems with colonial administration attributed to lack of information about the New World. Ovando's actions incorporated legalistic methodologies and juridical ways of establishing matters of fact—not unlike the approach Francis Bacon would later adopt—into cosmographical practice that subverted key aspects of traditional Renaissance cosmography. This chapter examines the parallels between these measures and similar epistemic approaches that historians have identified in other European nations, principally in the work of Francis Bacon.

Keywords: Juan de Ovando; cosmographical information; Council of Indies; colonial administration; New World; Francis Bacon; legal culture

Chapter.  16588 words. 

Subjects: History of Science and Technology

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