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Geography Textbooks Collection




Ca. 4,200 titles

Scope and content

The Geography Textbooks Collection is a comprehensive collection of books published in Britain for the teaching of geography in primary and secondary schools (up to A-level or equivalent). All aspects of the subject are reflected in this collection. There are books that focus on human geography, physical geography and regional geography, and there is a small collection of school atlases. The earliest examples date from the mid-nineteenth century, and the latest from the 1990s, though most of the material dates from the middle decades of the twentieth century.

School textbooks are often discarded as having little intrinsic value or academic worth, but they are a fascinating resource for historians. The textbooks that date from the period before the introduction of the National Curriculum are useful sources of information on the development of the school curriculum. 

School textbooks provide evidence of changing ideas on teaching methods and assessment, and reflect the social, political and economic priorities afforded to geographical issues. In addition to the ‘factual’ presentation of contemporary life in text and illustrations, they often reveal prevailing attitudes, and evidence of other aspects of everyday life in past eras. Their presentation of race and culture, or of the British Empire, demonstrate the accepted views of the establishment at the time of their publication. Textbooks are also an interesting genre for those studying the history of publishing.


The collection has been assembled with the help of generous gifts of material from the University of Cambridge and the University of Southampton Libraries, as well as from personal collections. 
Cataloguing of the collection has been made possible by a series of grants from the Frederick Soddy Trust.


This collection is catalogued and is searchable on Explore. Items from the collection can only be perused in the IOE Reading Room.