Nicolás Wey Gόmez
Professor of History
Early Modern Atlantic History and Literature; History of Exploration, Empire, and Globalization; Spanish Golden Age and Colonial Literatures
Nicolás Wey Gόmez studies the history of exploration, empire, and globalization. He specializes in the early modern Atlantic world, combining analysis of literature with the history of science and technology and intellectual history. His research and teaching expand on present understanding of work across disciplines and the knowledge systems that inform a broad range of texts from antiquity to the early modern period.
Wey Gómez's work on the Atlantic examines the assumptions underlying the letters, chronicles, histories, and cosmographies that document Europe's encounter with the Americas in the wake of Columbus's discoveries. He focuses on early portrayals of native peoples by Europeans, particularly on the role of scientific and technical knowledge in the production of New World anthropology and in early legal justifications for European expansionism around the globe.
His research aims to observe the questions, constraints, and methodologies governing a broad range of disciplines today, such as classics, cultural anthropology, critical geography, history of science and technology, intellectual history, literature, and philosophy. In this line of work, Wey Gómez has ultimately sought to outline the complex epistemic system that underwrote imperialism as theory and practice in early modernity.
Wey Gómez's first book, The Tropics of Empire: Why Columbus Sailed South to the Indies, aimed at redefining the geographical history of the discovery of the Americas as part of Mediterranean Europe's problematic reawakening to the natural and human resources of the belt of the tropics. He is currently working on The Machine of the World: Science and Human Rights in the Age of Empire, studying the interrelated developments of natural history, anthropology, and humanitarian advocacy in the early modern Hispanic world. He is also preparing a history of imperialism in the Age of Exploration titled Latitude: How Europe Invented the Global South.
Before joining Caltech in 2010, he was on the faculty at Brown University and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. In the spring of 2010, he was a visiting associate professor of the history of science at Harvard University.