Early Civilization and the American Modern

Images of Middle Eastern origins in the United States, 1893–1939

Eva Miller


ISBN: 9781800087217

Publication: August 05, 2024

Series: Modern Americas

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In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, a particular story about the United States’ role in the long history of world civilization was constructed in public spaces, through public art and popular histories. This narrative posited that civilization and its benefits – science, law, writing, art and architecture – began in Egypt and Mesopotamia before passing ever further westward, towards a triumphant culmination on the American continent.

Early Civilization and the American Modern explores how this teleological story answered anxieties about the United States’ unique role in the long march of progress. Eva Miller focuses on important figures who collaborated on the creation of a visual, progressive narrative in key institutions, world’s fairs and popular media: Orientalist and public intellectual James Henry Breasted, astronomer George Ellery Hale, architect Bertram Grosvenor Goodhue, and decorative artists Lee Lawrie and Hildreth Meière. At a time when new information about the ancient Middle East was emerging through archaeological excavation, ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia appeared simultaneously old and new. This same period was crucial to the development of public space and civic life across the United States, as a shared sense of historical consciousness was actively pursued by politicians, philanthropists, intellectuals, architects and artists.

Eva Miller is British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow in the History Department at UCL.

List of figures and tables
List of abbreviations
Preface: Language, influences, relevance

1 Introduction: American apotheosis
2 Inheritance: how did civilization come to America?
3 Progress: making sense of history through art
4 Origins: America in the lands of early civilization
5 Parallels: American Indians and the ancient East
6 Science: East and West meet at the National Academy of Sciences
7 Modernity: the Nebraska State Capitol and Los Angeles Central Library

Epilogue: the future

Format: Paperback

Size: 234 × 156 mm

352 Pages

1 B&W table, 33 colour photo/halftones, and 60 B&W photo/halftones

Copyright: © 2024

ISBN: 9781800087217

Publication: August 05, 2024

Series: Modern Americas

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