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Tamara Plakins Thornton, State University of New York, Buffalo

The “Use of the Globes”: Mathematical Geography, the Mercantile Imagination, and Global Capitalism in Postrevolutionary America”

The “Use of the Globes”: Mathematical Geography, the Mercantile Imagination, and Global Capitalism in Postrevolutionary America”

In entering the commerce dominated by Europe’s East India Company monopolies, American merchants did not just trade more expansively than they had before independence; they also thought more expansively. This paper explores an obscured component of their global perspective: globes themselves, terrestrial and celestial, configured as calculating devices, along with the related discipline of mathematical geography. In colleges, academies, and commercially-oriented “mathematical schools,” would-be merchants learned to manipulate gridded spheres—physically, mathematically, and cognitively—studies that suggested new ways of imagining global trade.