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.