With the Internet, the Nineteenth Century Never Gets Old!

Last week I finished up my semester as a grad student, as I turned in my final essay about how the cartography and form of (primarily) nineteenth century Protestant missionary atlases served as recruiting tools and as challenges to the dominant perception of atlases as texts of “objective truth.”

Although the magic of ILL did yield me a really cool missionary atlas from 1925 (thanks, Tulsa University!) that had some beautiful printed plates, most of my research on these texts took place online. I’m constantly amazed by how much material Google Books has available that can serve as the basis of a seminar paper. (Partially as an experiment) I’ve included one of the many missionary atlases that I drew on below: (FYI, the explanation for embedding Google Books and other iFrame code into WordPress.com installs can be found here).

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World Missionary Atlas (1925), Detail - Africa North-Western Section - Plate 16

Simultaneously, in my own World History classes we’ve been looking at the nineteenth century and the development of unified nation-states and the rise of “new imperialism.” One of the documents that I’ve used to illustrate the late nineteenth century imperial mindset is a British text called An ABC for Baby Patriots.

Previously, I’ve just had crummy photocopies of some of the images from the book, but out of curiosity this past week I went searching for more info about it online and discovered that the entire thing has been digitized by the University of Florida. Being able to see the images in color with much greater detail immensely enhances what one can get out of the text. Here are a few of the more striking (or perhaps head-shaking) images.

The interesting thing about many of these images is how the students respond to them. The first impression for many is that these documents are a joke; that they’re sardonically poking fun at a clearly paternalistic and bigoted attitude. (Many students  have the same reaction to Rudyard Kipling’s “White Man’s Burden,” perhaps unsurprisingly. Both documents are great exercises in reading tone). So, it takes a while to work through the historical context and attitudinal differences between the late nineteenth century and the present, but the discussion always makes for a striking realization about the not-too-distant past.


2 thoughts on “With the Internet, the Nineteenth Century Never Gets Old!

  1. This is fantastic Nate! I really like the /ABC for Baby Patriots/. I think I want to “borrow” this (and talk with you about how you structure this lesson) for my upcoming 2302.

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