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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mapping our World
This is the sort of book which everyone can enjoy. The reader might be put off when, at the start of the book, they are faced with the List of Figures and List of Illustrations but once they have read the preface, they will be quickly caught up by Brotton's enthusiasm.

Brotton is undoubtedly a scholarly man but he is able to communicate his knowledge in a way...
Published 23 months ago by Richard M. Seel

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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just because there's a wealth of information, doesn't mean that the book is any good
I don't like to write negative reviews of a product, especially books, but I was really struggling to find any redeeming features in A History of the World in Twelve Maps. The book starts with a very wordy introduction that incorporates philosophy, the Classics, theology and different creation myths, etymology and history, as well as a glaring editorial error that should...
Published 22 months ago by Petra Bryce


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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mapping our World, 27 Nov 2012
By 
Richard M. Seel (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
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This is the sort of book which everyone can enjoy. The reader might be put off when, at the start of the book, they are faced with the List of Figures and List of Illustrations but once they have read the preface, they will be quickly caught up by Brotton's enthusiasm.

Brotton is undoubtedly a scholarly man but he is able to communicate his knowledge in a way in which those who know little of the subject matter will soon be wanting to learn more.

Each of the maps explores a different period in time starting with Ptolemy in cAD150 through to the Google Earth of today. Included is Hereford's Mappa Mundi c1300 which can be seen in the Cathedral today. The twelve maps show different aspects of the world as seen at that time - a lesson of history beautifully illustrated in words by the `greats' at that time.

Brotton explains why maps are important, how they show what was happening at the time they were made and how they related to the people living at that time. When finishing with Google maps, he scrutinises the way in which we like to explore where we live now and how this relates to our idea of ourselves.

Brotton has the gift of clear thinking and good communication. This is not the sort of book the ordinary reader will "devour in one go" but the kind of book which will be dipped into time and time again. There is so much to read and learn that space is needed between each of the maps so that one can think about and explore that time for oneself. I have to admit that is one I am going to do, one map at a time, and then discover the next map when I am ready.

Review by Shirleyanne Seel.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good book but with limitations, 25 Mar 2013
This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
As a collector of old maps and a maker of new ones (for orienteering) I felt this book was going to be right up my street. And indeed I found most of it fascinating and informative - I even read every word, instead of just dipping in.
However as I finished it, I had a sense of disappointment that the author had not quite done himself justice. My reasons are threefold: 1. the book was poorly edited, with large sections of repetition. A more concise style would have made many points shorter and clearer. 2. there were technical errors which both the author and editor should have picked up. If these occured in the sections I knew about, then did they also occur in the majority of the book which was new to me? 3. The colour illustrations are (for printing cost reasons) put into 2 blocks in the book. The reader is for ever looking forward or back to find the map being discussed - and then some are too small to be clear. There are also too few illustrations of projections (one of the main themes of the book) at appropriate moments.
But the book is well worth the read even so. The material on Asian maps will be new to most people familiar only with European exploration; the field work of the Cassini family is fascinating; and it is good to see something both positive and negative on Mackinder (who Geographers of a certain age prefer to forget). Whether Google Maps deserve quite so much uncritical attention, when maps based on photos are intrinsically inaccurate, is debatable, but that chapter brings the book up to the present and also round in quite a neat circle to where it begins.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 9 Dec 2012
By 
Stromata (Scotland) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
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It was only following the publication of the 'Peters Projection Map' in the 1970s, which claimed to be a good, fair, and non-racist view of the world, that it occurred to me that maps, atlases and the like could be concocted for reasons other than wish to make a true and accurate representation of the route from a to b.

In his wonderfully interesting book 'A History of the World in Twelve Maps', Jerry Brotton gives us example after example of maps that have come in to being for a specific purpose, be it science, commerce, religion etc. As with other well-written 'single-subject' histories (such as, for example, 'Salt: A History of the World, by Mark Kurlansky) the breadth of the interest is vast and yet I would say this is not a difficult read.

The text is complemented with a generous fifty-six colour plates, numerous black and white illustrations within the body of the work and a superb and informative 'Notes' section. Indeed it is a beautifully produced publication by Allen Lane.

An excellent book and highly recommended.
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43 of 48 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just because there's a wealth of information, doesn't mean that the book is any good, 29 Dec 2012
By 
Petra Bryce "bookworm" (Malvern, Worcs) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
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I don't like to write negative reviews of a product, especially books, but I was really struggling to find any redeeming features in A History of the World in Twelve Maps. The book starts with a very wordy introduction that incorporates philosophy, the Classics, theology and different creation myths, etymology and history, as well as a glaring editorial error that should have been spotted way before its publication. In it, the author also offers a few thought-provoking comments, such as "A world view gives rise to a world map; but the world map in turn defines its culture's view of the world. It is an exceptional act of symbiotic alchemy" and "In the act of locating themselves on it, the viewer is at the same moment imaginatively rising above (and outside) it in a transcendent moment of contemplation, beyond time and space, seeing everything from nowhere", but sadly these get swamped by the sheer amount of information Jerry Brotton is trying to get across. The second quote in particular evokes the desire to become immersed in the details of a map, but unfortunately for the reader the publisher has decided to skimp on the reproductions so that the maps getting the Brotton treatment are all grouped together in two sections in the book and are often pitifully reduced to near illegibility. The earliest surviving map from ancient Babylon barely gets a mention and the first chapter, devoted to Ptolemy's Geography, though setting the blueprint for all modern maps by establishing the principles of latitude and longitude and defining geography as a discipline, actually isn't a map at all but a scientific treatise. In examining the Geography, the author loses himself in detail, so that the result reads more like a doctoral thesis, complete with references and Greek terminology, than a book aimed at the general public. There is no narrative structure and it felt as if he was merely listing everything he's ever read about the subject, without consideration for his readership; a proper discussion of Ptolemy's work doesn't start until 20+ pages into the chapter, and even then I found it extremely difficult to take on board his conclusions, as I was being bombarded with fact after fact and was suffering from information overload. Surely a writer of good non-fiction books must not only know what to include and how to present the information to the reader to best advantage, but also what to leave out; sadly, this is not the case here. His chapter on the Hereford mappamundi fared slightly better, but again the author made the mistake of indiscriminately listing snippets of history, theology and the Classics, therefore turning the usual enjoyment of reading and learning into a chore. As a result, I decided to give up on reading the other chapters in this substantial book, unable to face the remaining 400 or so pages in it. This resignation is the more annoying because I feel that with its chosen title, the publisher inevitably invites comparison with Neil MacGregor's A History of the World in 100 Objects and loses out in both the quality of the writing and the reproductions of the artefacts. That's a real shame, as the subject has great potential, but unfortunately the book fails to live up to its promise.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A History of the World in Twelve Maps, 12 Nov 2012
By 
Champollion (Shropshire) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
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In 1881, in the ruins of an ancient Babylonian city named Sippar, an intrepid archaeologist, discovered a 2,500 year old clay tablet. Now on display in the British Museum it proved to be the first known map of the world. This is the first fascinating and compelling story in a journey that Jerry Brotton takes the reader on spanning that first birds eye view of the world right up to the Google Earth map which dominates today.

The twelve maps all tell a different perspective as most maps tell you as much about the society that produced them and the beliefs of the cartographer as they do about the world. The author argues there is no such thing as a neutral map, as each one is making selective decisions. Maps were meant to make a statement about political power and authority.

What is apparent is the fact that you can not put a globe onto a flat piece of paper and therefore lines of longitude and latitude are stretched as with the first atlas created by Mercator in the late sixteenth century.

After two millenia, maps having been made on stone, animal skins and paper are now digitized and virtual. Yet, the author, suggests, the new innovations are not without controversy.

Jerry Brotton has written and produced a highly readable, engaging and interesting book. He has perfectly combined the dual themes of history and map making against a background of different cultures, politics and beliefs.

This is a book to be explored, and enjoyed. You will never look at a map, the same way again. Recommended.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars interesting - also long and learned, 13 Jan 2013
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
'What is there?' is one of the world's basic questions; and maps can answer that question at one level; and have given a variety of different answers over the years, from the Hereford Mappa Mundi (there's a Christian story which the geography of the world reflects) to the 'Peters projection' ('there's a much bigger third world than we thought'). Maps can be prayed in aid in all sorts of discussion (who owns the spice trade - where exactly are the Moluccas in a world divided between Spain and Portgual?), including the military, the expeditionary and the 'geopolitical' world political story.

Each chapter takes a theme of world history; sets it in context (the Hereford chapter includes material on what canonisation takes and just why the map was produced - a possible visitor attraction akin to holy relicts that might bring pilgrims to a site); explains the map and its role in the theme.

I learned a lot from the book - but read it over a period of some weeks. Each chapter contains much to think about; and each contains a wealth of detail to support the argument. I have wondered whether it could have been shorter with a stronger emphasis on maps - and I suspect it could have been, but then it wouldn't have quite been this book. I doubt I will remember much of the learned detail - but I will be taking away some reflections on maps and the themes of world history. It's hard to ask for more.
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66 of 79 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Indispensable Map, 2 Sep 2012
By 
Dr Barry Clayton (United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
When I was at school it was a rule that whenever we had History a world map had to be on our desks. Sadly today the majority of our GCSE, A Level and, in many cases I know of, university students seldom consult a map when studying History. Hence,we turn out at 16,18 and 21 students who are unable to tell you the countries that border, say, Russia,the location of states within the USA or Africa, or have any conception of the importance of river systems or mountain ranges on historical development.
This superb book by Professor Brotton ought therefore be compulsory reading for any history student.
Maps are fascinating,of vital importance and, at the same time, misleading.A map is never just a map. As Jerry Brotton shows maps reflect, expose and manipulate the political and social environment in which they are made.
The well-known Mercator Projection, the work of the Flemish cartographer Gerardus Mercator, has many shortcomings. For example, it fails to make clear that Latin America is almost twice the size of Europe or that Greenland is far smaller than it appears to be on the map.
Since the astronomer Claudius Ptolemy wrote 'Geography' around 150 AD cartographers have had to grapple with the problem of how to project a spherical globe in two dimensions. This excellent book tells the story of the complexity of making 12 maps stretching from Ptolemy to Google Earth. By the 19th century Britain was often placed at the centre of maps instead of at the edge as in previous centuries.
The author explains that even today with access to satellite images there is no universally accepted map. He writes:'different societies have very distinct ideas of the world and how it should be represented'.
Professor Brotton explains how maps are the products of both art and science. His book makes clear that maps are about things other than spatial awareness. They are also about finance, discovery and empire. Above all they are a fascinating interpretation of the perceived world. They can be thought of as windows to times past.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, but dry, 15 Nov 2013
This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
In lots of ways this is a fascinating book, picking up on the trend to look at a historical subject in the context of a single item or area. It was first started by the book A History of the World in 100 Objects.

There are lots of images of ancient maps, the detail and depth that the book goes into are impressive, and the credentials of the author are impeccable. And yet it doesn't work for me. There is a mass of detail in here, from some of the very first maps by Ptolemy and other significant ones like the Mappi Mundi in Hereford cathedral, to the Mercer projection and the origins of the OS, and onto Google earth. It covers all the really important maps and individuals involved in the creation of those maps, and has some superb images of the maps in colour.

What makes this book so difficult to read is the text; it feels like it is written like a academic paper most of the time. It does improve towards the end, but it did make it very hard reading for most of the book, and that is a shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Very interesting way of presenting history, 12 July 2013
By 
billt (Winchester) - See all my reviews
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The history of map making was well researched and well-presented. Embedding world events in the history was novel and worked well
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating....., 6 Jun 2013
By 
Wynne Kelly "Kellydoll" (Coventry, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A History of the World in Twelve Maps (Hardcover)
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Jerry Brotton focuses on twelve different maps to show how these have over time shaped our view of the world. He begins with a clay tablet from Babylon and ends with Google Earth. He shows (or reminds us) that maps are not necessarily value-free and can be used to reinforce political ideas. (Many years ago I remember criticism of West Germany for using maps in school text books that showed Germany as encompassing East Germany. This was not accidental. Today if you look online for maps of Israel they may not show the new (illegal) settlements.) Does anyone else remember the classroom world maps with the British influence marked in pink? "That's all ours," we were told.

This is a beautifully produced book. The colour illustrations are lovely - even though I would have liked them to have been a bit larger. It is densely packed with facts and ideas (perhaps a bit too densely packed in places) and gives the reader plenty to digest and mull over.

A History of the World in Twelve Maps is the sort of book that can be read straight through or dipped into at random. Anyone who likes maps cannot fail to be fascinated by this book.
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A History of the World in Twelve Maps
A History of the World in Twelve Maps by Jerry Brotton (Hardcover - 6 Sep 2012)
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