Questions of inscription and epistemology in British travelers' accounts of early nineteenth-century South America

Innes M. Keighren, Charles W. J. Withers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article examines the problems of truth and of trust in travelers' narratives. Following a review of work on travel writing and the place of printed travel narratives in the making of geographical enquiry, we discuss how issues of inscription and credibility are intrinsic to the material and epistemic transformation of narratives from their manuscript beginnings to their printed form. Particular attention is paid to the narratives of travel in early nineteenth-century South America issued by the London publisher John Murray. By interrogating the embodied practices of travel writing, this article investigates the ways in which Murray's authors sought to establish a correspondence between their lived experiences and the textual representations of those experiences. The article focuses on the epistemological bases to travelers' claims to truth and how they evaluated differently the significance of direct observation and the oral and textual testimony of third parties in the production of travel accounts that sought to reveal a newly independent South America to the reading public. In its examination of the complex connections linking author, publisher, and audience, the work has implications for scholars interested in the relationship between writing and the printed word in geography.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1331-1346
JournalAnnals of the Association of American Geographers
Issue number6
Early online date23 May 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2011


  • South America
  • travel accounts
  • travel writing and inscription
  • travelers' truth claims
  • trust and epistemology

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