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Charting an Empire

Geography at the English Universities 1580-1620

How did early modern England—an island nation on the periphery of world affairs—transform itself into the center of a worldwide empire? Lesley B. Cormack argues that the newly institutionalized study of geography played a crucial role in fueling England’s imperial ambitions.

Cormack demonstrates that geography was part of the Arts curriculum between 1580 and 1620, read at university by a broad range of soon-to-be political, economic, and religious leaders. By teaching these young Englishmen to view their country in a global context, and to see England playing a major role on that stage, geography supplied a set of shared assumptions about the feasibility and desirability of an English empire. Thus, the study of geography helped create an ideology of empire that made possible the actual forays of the next century.

Geography emerges in Cormack’s account as the fruitful ground between college and court, in whose well-prepared soil the seeds of English imperialism took root. Charting an Empire will interest historians of science, geography, cartography, education, and empire.

298 pages | 17 halftones, 2 maps, 1 line drawings, 8 tables | 6 x 9 | © 1997

Geography: Cartography

History: British and Irish History

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
Introduction: Charting an Empire
1: Geography and the Changing Face of the English University
2: The Social Context of Geography
3: Mathematical Geography: Theory at Practice
4: Descriptive Geography: Tales of Prester John and of the Palace of Edo
5: Chorography: Geography Writ Small
6: The Patronage of Patriotism: The "Third University" of London
Conclusion: Geography and the Idea of Empire
App. A: Sources for Book List
App. B: Geography Books Owned by Students, Fellows, and Libraries of Selected Colleges

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