Hugh Cagle portrait
  • Director of International Studies, College Of Humanities
  • Associate Professor, History


  • PhD, Department of History, Rutgers University, 9/2011


I work in the combined areas of Latin American history (especially Brazil), comparative colonialism, and science and technology studies (STS).

My early research began as the history of a geographical idea, namely “the tropics.” From popular fiction to modern biomedicine, the tropics are defined by two essential features: prodigious nature and debilitating illness. That was not always so. In my first book, Assembling the Tropics, I show how such a vision was created. Along the way, I also challenge conventional accounts of the origins of the Scientific Revolution. The history of “the tropics,” I argue, is the story of science in Europe’s first global empire. Beginning in the late fifteenth century, Portugal established colonies from sub-Saharan Africa to Southeast Asia and South America, enabling the earliest comparisons of nature and disease across the middle latitudes of the globe. Assembling the Tropics is a story of how the proliferation of colonial approaches to medicine and natural history led to a vision of “the tropics” as a single, coherent, and internally consistent global region. This is a story about how places acquire medical meaning, about how nature and disease become objects of scientific inquiry, and about what is at stake when that happens.

Assembling the Tropics won the prestigious 2019 Leo Gershoy Award from the American Historical Association, and has won praise in top journals in fields ranging from Portuguese literature to history and science and technology studies.

I remain fascinated with the relationship between science and colonialism in the early modern world. My new work moves in two different directions. One project is a study of the practices of animal classification under Portuguese rule in Brazil and India. The other examines technologies of the Tupi-speaking peoples of Amazonia.

I am also Director of the University of Utah’s International Studies program, and I teach in the Department of History. That work, much like my research, is marked by a concern for historical debates, a penchant for comparison, and an emphasis on global connections.