The American Archipelago
Title: The American Archipelago
Author: WEISBRODE, Kenneth
Citation: Historically Speaking, 2010, 11, 1, 24-27
As any European schoolchild from the late 19th or early 20th century would have known, imperial rule had precise geographic expression. World maps were colored accordingly, the best known probably being that of the British Empire, with swathes of red stretching across Asia, Africa, and the Western Hemisphere. Political, military, and even economic authority, in other words, could be plotted visually. Maps and projections varied, of course, and the colors occasionally blurred along the margins; but the existential power of maps was indisputable. Imperial rule did not count for much unless it appeared on paper. To Americans the importance of maps presented a curious problem. The popular basis for American nationalism -- not only in the United States, but throughout the Americas -- was for much of the 19th century a renunciation of the "Old World" of Europe and an affirmation of a romantic conception of what had been known since the age of exploration as the "New World." With the American revolutions, the New World obtained meaning as a political project alongside its earlier incarnations as a religious and social experiment. The...
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