Civic Discipline

Geography in America, 1860-1890

By Karen M. Morin

© 2011 – Routledge

258 pages

Purchasing Options:
Hardback: 9781409401438
pub: 2011-03-21

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

Table of Contents

Contents: Introduction: geography as a civic discipline in 19th-century America; Charles P. Daly's gendered geography; New York City's friend of labor: geography and urban social reform; Transporting American empire; rails, canals, and the politics of the 'geo-personal'; Arctic science and the 'jurist-geographer'; 'Geographical exploration is commercial progress': in the Congo; Postscript: reclaiming Charles P. Daly, prospects and problems; Bibliography; Index.

About the Author

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

About the Series

Studies in Historical Geography

Studies in Historical Geography
Historical geography has consistently been at the cutting edge of scholarship and research in human geography for the last fifty years. The first generation of its practitioners, led by Clifford Darby, Carl Sauer and Vidal de la Blache presented diligent archival studies of patterns of agriculture, industry and the region through time and space. Drawing on this work, but transcending it in terms of theoretical scope and substantive concerns, historical geography has long since developed into a highly interdisciplinary field seeking to fuse the study of space and time. In doing so, it provides new perspectives and insights into fundamental issues across both the humanities and social sciences. Having radically altered and expanded its conception of the theoretical underpinnings, data sources and styles of writing through which it can practice its craft over the past twenty years, historical geography is now a pluralistic, vibrant and interdisciplinary field of scholarship. In particular, two important trends can be discerned. First, there has been a major 'cultural turn' in historical geography which has led to a concern with representation as driving historical-geographical consciousness, leading scholars to a concern with text, interpretation and discourse rather than the more materialist concerns of their predecessors. Secondly, there has been a development of interdisciplinary scholarship, leading to fruitful dialogues with historians of science, art historians and literary scholars in particular which has revitalised the history of geographical thought as a realm of inquiry in historical geography. Studies in Historical Geography aims to provide a forum for the publication of scholarly work which encapsulates and furthers these developments. Aiming to attract an interdisciplinary and international authorship and audience, Studies in Historical Geography will publish theoretical, historiographical and substantive contributions meshing time, space and society.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Human Geography