Geography Textbooks from the 1800s - 1900s
The term textbooks arches over a variety of books. Each of these books shares the common thread in that they are non-fiction and didactic, teaching through instruction rather than adventure. This definition pushes us to imagine modern-day hardcover textbooks with sections, paragraphs, quizzes, and excerpts. Geography textbooks from 1800-1900 are an earlier form of these textbooks. Over time, these books began to follow a rigid structure. This includes a formal chapter header, section header, and numbered facts with bolded vocabulary. Often these textbooks begin with a dictionary simply listing out every technical term in the book.
In this time period, geography maintained three tenants: physical geography, mathematical geography, and political geography. The textbooks from this time often combined political and physical geography into the same chapter/books. However, over time, these books began to isolate physical geography into its own texts. Geography was also often connected with history and astronomy. When talking about physical geography, the author would typically provide a bolded definition of a term followed by an explanation. The explanation would typically be nothing more than numbered facts, only a sentence or two long. When physical geography merged with political geography, the text often went through regions of the world. These regions were typically the United States individually or a rundown starting with the continents and fragmenting further down. Each state or country would have no more than a page or two of them. Mathematical geography was often similar to physical geometry in that it would provide a numbered fact and a quick explanation. In general, the briefness of the explanations and sections imply a significant emphasis on breadth rather than depth. This is understandable as it is a children’s book.
Geography and Astronomy Familiarized published in the 1800s targeted the youth of both sexes. The early book starts with the definition of geography. It then begins immediately by talking about land and water. It first defines the term and provides an example. The definition and example are single sentence paragraph. The book then beings talking about Europe followed by Asia, Africa, America, and South America before finally switching to Astronomy. Each section was around 2-3 pages with large font containing around 18 lines. These were typically simple superficial description providing straight fact without much more.
“An Introduction to Geography” was published in 1818. This book is interesting in that it heavily involves Christian sayings into the book. The book has many sections each a single word with a short definition and an excerpt where the term is mentioned biblically. However, when it begins to discuss specific areas it segways into pages with dense paragraphs. Each location is documented in 3-5 dense paragraphs with information about location, origin and some culture followed by a bible reference again.
These two early books were relatively unstructured but as time went by they began to become more like what we are used to today. “The Eclectic Elementary Geography” was published in 1883. The book has every paragraph numbered with main words bolded. The paragraphs are short facts relevant to the chapter title. These facts are clearly explained with examples. Also, every page is filled with descriptive and useful images.The book begins with a mid-sized definitions section. It then begins with North America diving into the United States and then its division. Later it goes to Mexico and Central America. Then finally, it targets all the other continents except Antarctica as a whole.