Document Type



Civic Discipline: Geography in America, 1860-1890

Publication Date



Ashgate Publishers


Historical Geography Series


Civic Discipline argues that the story of the origins of American geography is a distinctly "New York story." Wealthy businessmen began America's first geographical society - the American Geographical Society - in 1851, inspired by what geographical knowledge of the globe could offer an expanding American commercial Empire at home and abroad. AGS meetings were spectacularly popular among the public and press. At them, geography was cast as a science in the service of the public and civic good. Meanwhile though, AGS men's spatial and financial "missions" became closely linked. They helped improve derelict spaces in New York City and weighed in on controversial scientific questions of the day in the Arctic, yet the geographical knowledge they advanced - such as in the American West and in Central Africa - also created enormous personal wealth. Civic Discipline shows that it was not just that historical events shaped geography, but rather, that geography shaped historical events.


See also the forum discussion in The Geographical Review located in "Geographical Review Forum: Karen Morin's Civic Discipline," The Geographical Review 102 (4): 539-562.

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