Top of page

Integrating Historical and Geographic Thinking

Share this post:

The following is a guest post by Michael Apfeldorf, a member of the Library’s education team.

Primary sources support the study of many disciplines, including both history and geography. One way to help students think about primary sources geographically is to focus them on the five themes of geography: location, place, movement, region, and human-environmental interaction. The latest edition of The TPS Journal, an online publication created by the Library of Congress Educational Outreach Division in collaboration with the TPS Educational Consortium, explores how the five themes of geography can be applied to analyzing primary sources, providing students with multiple perspectives and contributing to greater understanding of a topic.

Consider this 1899 political cartoon, “School Begins,” which was published in Puck Magazine as the U.S. Senate debated annexation of the Philippines. In the cartoon, a stern-looking Uncle Sam addresses a  group of students, each labeled with a different geographic location: “Now, children, you’ve got to learn these lessons whether you want to or not! But just take a look at the class ahead of you, and remember that, in a little while, you will feel as glad to be here as they are!”

School Begins
School begins, 1899 January 25

Thinking historically, students might reflect on questions such as:

  • What was happening when the cartoon was published?
  • How are the various nationalities and ethnicities depicted in the cartoon? Consider body posture, facial expressions, and location in relation to the rest of the group.
  • What might these depictions tell us about the relationship between these groups and the United States government at the time of publication?

Meanwhile, students might also think about the cartoon geographically:

  • Create a map marking the place names labeling each character in the cartoon. Add the place names on the books held by the students representing “the class ahead of you” to the map. (Tip: the names are easier to read in the TIFF file.)
  • Looking at your map, what is geographically significant about each location? Is there any reason why these areas would have strategic importance to the United States?
  • How does seeing the map enhance or clarify the ideas in the cartoon?

The TPS Journal: Historical and Geographic Thinking contains a full discussion of primary source analysis focused on the five themes of geography, as well as sample lesson plans, additional resources from the Library of Congress, current research on the topic, and more.

Please explore the TPS Journal for free here and let us know in the comments how you are using primary sources to teach geography.

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *