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


  • PhD, Department of History, Rutgers University


I am an associate professor in the Department of History and Director of the University of Utah’s International Studies program. I work in the combined areas of Latin American history (especially Brazil), comparative colonialism (especially Portuguese colonialism in South Asia and South America), and science and technology studies (STS).

It is my great pleasure to have the opportunity to work with both undergraduate and graduate students on projects related to these and similar issues. My research, teaching, and leadership alike are marked by a concern for historical debates, a penchant for comparison, and an emphasis on global connections.

My first book, Assembling the Tropics (Cambridge, 2018), brings together the histories of science, medicine, and geography to show that "the tropics" is not a place but a political project. From popular fiction to modern biomedicine, the modern tropics have been defined by two essential features: prodigious nature and debilitating illness. That was not always so. I show how such a vision was created. Along the way, I also challenge conventional accounts 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 tells 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. 

Asseembling the Tropics 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. The book won the prestigious 2019 Leo Gershoy Award from the American Historical Association, and has earned 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 and presently have two projects underway. One is a comparative study of the practices of animal dissection and classification under Portuguese rule in Brazil and India. The other examines technologies of the Tupi-speaking peoples of Amazonia.