The English hunger for desolate places

The Royal Society Mato Grosso Expedition, 1967–1969

  • Carlos Haag York University
Nyckelord: Scientific expeditions, post-colonial, twentieth century, Royal Society, Brazil


From 1967 to 1969, upon invitation by the Central Brazil Foundation, an ad hoc expedition from the Royal Society and the Royal Geographical Society, known as the Mato Grosso Expedition, took place in Brazil. The research then conducted was aligned to the Brazilian military government’s plans to occupy and develop the area known as Central Brazil. Documents relative to the Mato Grosso Expedition indicate a resumption of post-colonial practices, as well as a shift from so-called ‘pure science’ towards applied science, in accordance with Brazilian developmentalism views. Analysis also shows that the British model for surveying unexplored territories was maintained, together with its consequences for science.