Popular Darwinism and Geography Textbooks in Canada, 1850-1920

Eric Gormley


Influenced by Darwin's ideas, geographers in the late nineteenth century attempted to understand how the earth affected man. Disseminating their ideas through textbooks, geographers established what physical and climatic features were favourable for advancement and also defined what constituted progress or success. A dense population, for instance, was desirable, a sign the race was succeeding. This paper analyzes pre-and post-Darwinian geography textbooks used in the Canadian school system, indicating that they helped to shape culture at the turn of the century. Geography textbooks in Canadian schools were an important mechanism for the transmission of popular conceptions of Darwinian thought.

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