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Bielefeld Graduate School

in History and Sociology

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Mahshid Mayar



From Amoy to Zanesville: American Children and World Geography at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

My doctoral research examines the relationship between the USA's changing national priorities as a young, aspiring world power at the turn of the twentieth century and the ways these pressing national and international imperatives changed the then "modern" notions of world geography and cartographic practices which American youth were exposed to through different media in order to better suit new imperial roles as future adult Americans. Drawing upon spatial concepts developed by David Harvey, Fredric Jameson, and others, I offer a close reading of school geography primers and popular geographical games which adults produced and marketed to middle- and upper middle-class American children at the turn of the twentieth century. Furthermore, I examine the consumption of this body of geographical knowledge by looking at letters and geographical puzzles which children composed and sent to the two most celebrated juvenile periodicals of the time. Through this diverse body of primary sources, I explore the constructively competing worlds of factual and imaginary geography which professional geographers, toy-manufacturers, as well as their young audiences actively defined and redefined and the geopolitically shifting position of the USA in, and in relation to, the world.

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