Enlightenment ideas of the “the Great Map of Mankind” established relationships between historical and geographical distance which provided the problematic for eighteenth-century natural and civil histories. This raised issues of evidence for writing such histories that were particularly acute in the Caribbean, where natural history was—via the movement and transplantation of plants, animals and peoples—always a matter of “civil” history; and where the question of what (or who) was “civil” (or civilized) was addressed via discussions of the boundary between humanity and nature. It is shown that how these questions were asked provoked the use of an array of evidence that varied in its management of the relationships of proximity and distance: including travellers’ tales, eyewitness observations, classical authors and philosophical speculation. The epistemological disjunctures that this evidence brought with it meant that the questions that were opened up could not be closed down.
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