“Those Unconscionable Maps of Empire”: The American Geographical Society and the Politics of Imperialism, 1916-1945
This paper provides a critical commentary on the American Geographical Society’s geopolitical activities between the wars. Particular attention is paid to the Society’s attempts to promote a more internationalist and assertively imperial vision of the United States as a modern, 20th century power that could challenge and eventually replace the global authority of older European states in seemingly terminal decline. This was a contentious view, to be sure, and was fiercely rejected by more isolationist elements within American political culture. Drawing on unpublished, previously unknown archival sources, the paper considers the Society’s apparently disinterested and objectively scientific attempts to influence American policy towards Europe and the Middle East during and immediately after World War One, and towards Latin America during the 1920s and 1930s, the latter exemplified by the Society’s Map of Hispanic America, a 20-year compilation project to devise a new cartographic representation of the Americas south of the United States.