The New Irish Student’s Geography Part II: Great Britain; Europe; The World
This was a popular geography textbook by Elenor Butler, which was originally published in 1925. Butler’s name remains on this edition despite its being ‘much more than a revision, as it has been completely rewritten and brought into conformity with the modern approach to the teaching of geography’, a decision that perhaps reflects a desire to maintain a connection with a successful textbook. This is Part II of the text covering Britain, Europe and The World (Part I covers Ireland). The text is concerned with physical and economic geography and comparisons are made to Ireland throughout to provide a framework of understanding. The manner in which the text deals with the development of human civilization is interesting. European civilization is ascribed to the particular geographical conditions which have ‘helped [man] develop his initiative’ and climatic conditions that are ‘suited to hard work and continued effort’: ‘In view of all this, it is not surprising that Europe has played a major part in world history and in the spread of civilization’ (77). The 1940 edition of Butler’s text had made broadly the same point, though it was more forthright on European influence noting that ‘the civilising of the world has meant very largely the Europeanising of the world’. This argument is reiterated in a section on Africa. In the 1940 edition, Butler had noted bluntly that ‘The native peoples of Africa are, on the whole, very backward and unorganised’ citing the climate, physical features and configuration of the country as reasons. In this updated edition, these same factors ‘tended to keep most of the African peoples backward, and barred them from contacts with the great nations of Europe… the European nations, in their African colonies, tended to dominate the native peoples, who remained primitive and uneducated’ (242). Thus, the deleterious impact of imperialism is added as reason for this lack of ‘progress’. The text is notably negative on communism in Russia and China: ‘A new Russia – arrogant, industrialized, and ambitious – is being nurtured on the materialistic philosophy of Karl Marx’ (143). The individual counts for little; the State ‘maintains its supremacy by ruthless suppression of criticism’; ‘religion has practically “gone underground”; and Russia’s ‘political ambition’ has led to the Cold War (143). Interestingly, the treatment of Britain does not include Northern Ireland, either in the maps or in the text. Elsewhere, the text reveals subtle nationalist leanings. The cultural connections between Scotland and Ireland are outlined and the text notes that ‘Many of our people, too, emigrated to Scotland in the dark days of landlordism’ (57). The text is well illustrated with photographs and maps. There are tables at the end with lists of imports, exports and production.
A new and completely revised edition of the original text by Elenor Butler, M.A.
Place of Publication:
Educational Company of Ireland
Date of Publication:
302p, ill, 19cm
Geography, Textbook, Europe, Britain, Africa, Russia, China, Communism, Cold War, Imperialism, Representations of Nations and Nationalities
Schoolbook Collection – DCLA, Pearse Street