National Geographic April 1889, Part 1

Well, we’re back to the 19th century now.  There were only three issues in 1889, so this should go pretty quickly, provided I get enough hiking alone time to knock out the LibriVox versions of the issues.

Africa, Its Past and Future, by Gardiner G. Hubbard

Africa, Its Past and Future was surprisingly less racist than I was expecting. Now, I was expecting racism of both the “native Africans are lazy and useless” and of the “white people need to save them” types.

We start out strong, with an acknowledgement that Africa was civilized centuries before Europe was, then take a sharp downhill slide with the line “For ages upon ages, Africa has refused to reveal its secrets to civilized man.” Really? Ugh.

Let’s not even begin on Hubbard’s explanation that the Negro can find the “Mohammedan” afterlife more comprehensible than the (apparently superior) Christian afterlife. I can’t even.

Quite a large number of words are wasted in descriptions of where geographical features such as rivers, lakes, and mountains, are in relation to one another.  I spent quite a lot of this time wishing they’d just put a map in the issue.  And there is a map, but only of which areas of Africa are colonies of which European nations.  Nowhere, apparently, is there a just plain, you know, map.

Hubbard also talks about the colonization of Africa by Europeans, about how exploration of Africa (again, by Europeans) progresses, about the slave trade, about mining and mineral wealth, and about the titular future of Africa.

As to the future, as promised in the title, this article ends in a big question mark.  Apparently they can’t deliver what they promised.

Report — Geography of the Land, by Herbert G. Ogden

This was so gripping that I’m not a bit surprised that National Geographic has become a byword for engrossing education on the world around us.

That was a lie.  This was so. Boring.

Parts that were sort of memorable were the “barbarous tendencies” of the Africans, the “semi-civilized races” of Asia, and Ogden’s breathless anticipation of the surveys of New Jersey and Massachusetts.

National Geographic became more of a general interest publication in 1915, if I recall correctly.  That means I only have another 16 years of this to go before it gets interesting.  If I get that far.

Now, back to 2013.

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