An effort is made to reveal the multiple functions of early nineteenth-century geographic expeditions into the interior of lowland South America, with an emphasis on the subtle and pervasive ways that“scientific” knowledge (natural historical, gregraphic,ethnographic) was consistently entangled with colonial reconnaissance and administration. The work of Robert H. Schomburgk and William Hilhouse in British Guiana receives close scrutiny. Particular efforts are made to show the ways that their hybrid expeditions—hybrid in the composition of the exploring party itself, as well as hybrid in purpose—shaped European conceptions of the Amerindians of the region, and were in turn shaped by their presence. Also considered: the impact of abolition on conceptions of Amerindian character.

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