66 of 79 people found the following review helpful
The Indispensable Map,
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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Initial post: 7 Sep 2012 18:08:55 BDT
Thanks for the review. I'm just wondering- what kind of book is it exactly? Is it a book on history or geography or cartography or empire building or is it a mixture of all of these?
In reply to an earlier post on 11 Sep 2012 11:22:47 BDT
Last edited by the author on 11 Sep 2012 11:24:22 BDT
Masked Marvel says:
This review should answer all your questions
Posted on 3 Oct 2012 15:17:41 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 20 Apr 2013 05:07:23 BDT]
Posted on 11 Oct 2012 17:18:55 BDT
[Deleted by the author on 20 Apr 2013 05:07:31 BDT]
In reply to an earlier post on 4 Dec 2012 21:57:04 GMT
Last edited by the author on 4 Dec 2012 22:11:54 GMT
You ask a good question - what kind of book is it exactly - history or economics or cartography or whatever? I have just read it right through. It is a mixture of all of these.
Although the book is full of interesting ideas, the author does not seem to realize that he is close to expressing the view that a map should be the final authority, by the way it is drawn, to express the political, economic, religious, military, and-almost-every-other-aspect of the history of every country in the world. Maps obviously help in all of these areas, and do express their creators' views on all of these areas - but the author almost seems to eliminate the need for the map-reader to bring to his map-reading an already well-founded knowledge of the disciplines of politics, economics, etc. etc., in their own right. For him, seemingly, just looking at a map should tell us all that we need to know on all these topics.
This is a very significant and informative book, which reinforces and visualises one's knowledge of all these subjects, but the map itself can only encapsulate the knowledge provided by the explicit independent study of the disciplines of politics, economics, colonialism, etc. etc. in their own right.
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