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The Graphic Foundations of American History

The Graphic Foundations of American History

(p.11) Chapter 1 The Graphic Foundations of American History
Mapping the Nation
Susan Schulten
University of Chicago Press

In colonial America, maps were rarely used to make sense of the past. The birth of the American Republic made maps an important tool for documenting a “national” past that extended back to the fifteenth century, particularly with David Ramsay's attempt to chart and map history in the 1810s. Historical maps eventually spread widely, in part due to the improved capacity to design maps alongside thematic mapping and other graphic forms of knowledge. Historical atlases offered an appealing way to document national development in terms of territorial growth. Maps of the past flourished because of their unique capability to visualize the country's territorial growth and political development. This chapter first discusses the concept of historical cartography before turning to the development of charts and maps of time in the early Republic. It then examines the relationship between historical knowledge and the nation by focusing on the career of Emma Willard, one of the most influential educators in nineteenth-century America. In particular, it analyzes Willard's most enduring text, a historical atlas entitled Willard's History of the United States, or The Republic of America.

Keywords:   maps, history, historical maps, historical atlases, cartography, charts, nation, Emma Willard, America

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