Geographic Literacy in the Early Republic

Martin Bruckner’s “The Geographic Revolution in Early America” traces the process by which evolving norms of “geographic literacy” educated Americans to consider their relation to the national polity, and the emerging nation’s relationship to both competing European empires outside its borders and native nations within. It’s a fascinating read.

My favorite aspect was how unexpected the parameters of his area of study were. I expected to read about maps and geography textbooks. I did not expect to find connections between geographic literacy and early American novels, or between geography as a subject and pedagogy as an ideological, nation-building project. And the section on the Lewis and Clark expedition was, I imagine, much more interesting than anything Stephen Ambrose has to say about their journey.



5 thoughts on “Geographic Literacy in the Early Republic

  1. I found the concept of geography as a tool to differentiate and unify the new nation fascinating. Do you think the power of geography is as strong in today’s American Culture?

  2. I suspect it’s weaker? With the rise of the GPS, I don’t know if the average American looks at a map–as opposed to a directions with “minimaps” showing the route (Mapquest)–as often as previous generations did.

    But I could be completely wrong–it could be that with the GPS and Google Earth and so on, Americans now are MORE aware of their geographic conext. Just not in the way you and I learned.

  3. Pingback: How can Geography Literacy be still so bad at the age of Google Earth? | Pick-Me-Up Tonic
  4. Pingback: How can Geography Literacy be so bad at the age of Google Earth? | Geo Pickmeup
  5. Pingback: How Can Geography Literacy Be So Bad in the Age of Google Earth? | My School of Thought

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