Civic Discipline: Geography in America, 1860-1890 (Hardback) book cover

Civic Discipline

Geography in America, 1860-1890

By Karen M. Morin

© 2011 – Routledge

258 pages

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About the Book

The American Geographical Society was the pre-eminent geographical society in the nineteenth-century U.S. This book explores how geographical knowledge and practices took shape as a civic enterprise, under the leadership of Charles P. Daly, AGS president for 35 years (1864-1899). The ideals and programmatic interests of the AGS link to broad institutional, societal, and spatial contexts that drove interest in geography itself in the post-Civil War period, and also link to Charles Daly's personal role as New York civic leader, scholar, revered New York judge, and especially, popularizer of geography. Daly's leadership in a number of civic and social reform causes resonated closely with his work as geographer, such as his influence in tenement housing and street sanitation reform in New York City. Others of his projects served commercial interests, including in American railroad development and colonization of the African Congo. Daly was also New York's most influential access point to the Arctic in the latter nineteenth century. Through telling the story of the nineteenth-century AGS and Charles Daly, this book provides a critical appraisal of the role of particular actors, institutions, and practices involved in the development and promotion of geography in the mid-nineteenth century U.S. that is long overdue.


'Geographers have not generally been good at writing their own histories. There is much to learn from Morin's exhaustive archival research into this widely influential nineteenth century "conservative liberal" and much to argue about too, but her account and the debates it sparks will help to fill in some of the blank spots in the discipline's map of itself.' Neil Smith, City University of New York, USA and University of Aberdeen, UK 'Civic Discipline is an outstanding book, the best we have, on the making of American geography during the "Gilded Age". Drawing on unexplored archives, Karen Morin reveals new and unexpected stories about the discipline’s pioneering institutions and personalities, specifically Charles Daly, the long-serving President of the American Geographical Society. This is a powerful commentary on the creation of a distinctively American geographical imagination on the eve of the American century.' Mike Heffernan, University of Nottingham, UK 'This book is suitable for those interested in the history of geography, particularly in the United States, as well as for teaching courses in the history and scope of geography. Civic Discipline provides worthwhile and thoughtful analysis that is suitable for consideration by geographers and historians.' Journal of Cultural Geography 'Morin does a remarkable job defining the practice of civic geography and excavating the contributions of Daly. Through her extensive archival research, she constructs the realm of nineteenth-century geography and how Daly and the AGS were major players in shaping geographic knowledge, particularly that of the movers and shakers in New York and Washington.' The Professional Geographer '… viewed as a whole, the work is an important and welcomed addition to a literature that is all too limited. Foremost, the author is to be congratulated for diving into a topic that has seemingly just been waiting for this kind of excavation and interpretation, and for doing it with orig

About the Author

Karen M. Morin is Professor of Geography at Bucknell University, USA

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography