I was struck during my period as British Ambassador to Brazil (2008-2013) by the powerful contribution the UK had made to Brazil’s development. I was also struck by how little was known about this nowadays in both countries. These connections are not just a matter of historical record. They affect how the two countries see each other as potential partners for the future.
In the early nineteenth century, German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel wrote: ‘We do have information concerning America and its culture, especially as it had developed in Mexico and Peru, but only to the effect that it was a purely natural culture which had to perish as soon as the spirit approached it. America has always shown itself physically and spiritually impotent, and it does so to this day.’
Hegel’s philosophy of history was built upon long-standing ideas about the inferiority of the New World and its uncultivated physical and human landscape. What has been the effect of these ideas on the ways in which Latin America has been imagined and represented? How have these representations in turn contributed to shaping economic, social and political issues concerning, for instance, ethnicity, natural resources, ecological knowledges, and, ultimately, notions of modernisation?