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  • Originally published 05/10/2013

    Eric Jaffe: Why Historical Maps Still Matter

    With 150,000 or so old print maps to his name, David Rumsey has earned his reputed place among the world's "finest private collectors." But the 69-year-old San Francisco collector doesn't have any intention of resting on his cartographic laurels. He continues to expand his personal trove as well as the digitized sub-collection he makes open to the public online — some 38,000 strong, and growing."I'm pretty old for a geek map guy," he says. "But I stay young by embracing new technologies all the time."

  • Originally published 04/17/2013

    Aaron David Miller: How Geography Explains the United States

    Aaron David Miller is vice president for new initiatives and a distinguished scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. His forthcoming book is titled Can America Have Another Great President?. "Reality Check," his column for ForeignPolicy.com, runs weekly.Do Americans have a worldview? And is there a central organizing principle that explains it? To frame the question in Tolkienesque terms: Might there be one explanation that rules them all?I think there is.Sigmund Freud argued that in the human enterprise, anatomy is destiny. In the affairs of nations, geography -- what it wills, demands, and bestows -- is destiny too.It can't explain everything, to be sure. Britain and Japan are both island nations. That might explain their reliance on naval power and even their imperial aspirations. But what accounts for their fundamentally different histories? Other factors are clearly at play, including culture, religion, and what nature bestows or denies in resources. Fortune, along with the random circumstances it brings, pushes them in different directions.

  • Originally published 03/19/2013

    Slaves’ forgotten burial sites, marked online

    They have been bulldozed over by shopping centers, crept over by weeds and forgotten by time. Across the country, from Lower Manhattan to the Deep South, are unmarked slave burial sites, often discovered only by chance or by ignominious circumstance as when construction crews accidentally exhume bodies when building a shopping mall.Compounding the problem of preserving and locating slave graveyards, there is no comprehensive list of where they are and who lies within them. The situation troubled Sandra Arnold, 50, a history student at the School of Professional and Continuing Studies at Fordham University, who traces her ancestry to slaves in Tennessee.“The fact that they lie in these unmarked abandoned sites,” Ms. Arnold said, “it’s almost like that they are kind of vanishing from the American consciousness.”...

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