Teaching National Identity and Alterity

Nineteenth Century American Primary School Geography Textbooks

in Journal of Educational Media, Memory, and Society
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Abstract

The swift and profound transformations in technology and industry that the United States began to experience in the late 1800s manifested themselves in school textbooks, which presented different patterns of race, ethnicity, and otherness. They also displayed concepts like national identity, exceptionalism, and the superiority of Euro-American civilization. This article aims to demonstrate, via an analysis of two textbooks, how world geography was taught to children in primary schools in nineteenth century America. It shows that the development of American identity coincided with the emergence of the realm of the “other,” that is, with the intensification of racial attitudes and prejudices, some of which were to persist well into the twentieth century.

Contributor Notes

Bahar Gürsel teaches in the Department of History at the Middle East Technical University (METU) in Ankara, Turkey. E-mail: bgursel@metu.edu.tr

  • Mitchell, S. Augustus. Mitchell’s School Geography: A System of Modern Geography, Comprising a Description of the Present State of the World and its Five Great Divisions, America, Europe, Asia, Africa and Oceanica. Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1842.

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  • Mitchell, S. Augustus. Primary Geography: An Easy Introduction to the Study of Geography. Designed for the Instruction of Children in Schools and Families. Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1845.

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  • Mitchell, S. Augustus. Ancient Geography Designed for Academies, Schools and Families: A System of Classical and Sacred Geography. Philadelphia: Thomas, Cowperthwait & Co., 1845.

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  • Mitchell, S. Augustus. First Lessons in Geography for Young Children: Designed as an Introduction to the Author’s Primary Geography. Philadelphia: E. H. Butler & Co., 1860.

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  • Monteith, James. First Lessons in Geography, or Introduction to Youth’s Manual of Geography. New York: A. S. Barnes & Company, 1856.

  • Monteith, James. Introduction to Monteith’s Manual of Geography. New York: A. S. Barnes & Company, 1865.

  • Monteith, James. Physical and Political Geography: In Two Parts. New York: A. S. Barnes & Company, 1866.

  • Monteith, James. First Lessons in Geography: On the Plan of Object Teaching. Designed for Beginners. New York: A. S. Barnes & Company, 1875.

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