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A History of the World in Twelve Maps Hardcover – 6 Sep 2012
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[A] fascinating and panoramic new history of the cartographer's art... Brotton's idea of tracing within maps the patterns of human thought is a wonderful one. (Tom Holland Guardian)
As this mesmerising and beautifully illustrated book demonstrates, maps have, since ancient times, carried vast symbolic weight ... rich and endlessly absorbing history (Sinclair McKay Daily Telegraph)
an elegant, powerfully argued variation on the theme of knowledge as power and ignorance as powerlessness (David Horspool Guardian)
Rich and adventurous (John Carey Sunday Times)
An achievement of evocation....a fascinating and thought-provoking book (Anthony Sattin Literary Review)
Brotton is acutely sensitive to the social, political and religious contexts which unravel why maps were made, for whom and with what axes to grind (Robert Mayhew History Today)
A highly rewarding study (Simon Garfield Mail on Sunday)
Engrossing reading (Carl Wilkinson Financial Times)
The intellectual background to these images is conveyed with beguiling erudition ... There is nothing more subversive than a map (Andrew Linklater Spectator)
It is a wonderful history, which will delight anyone with an interest in history and geography (David Wooton TLS)
About the Author
Jerry Brotton is Professor of Renaissance Studies at Queen Mary University of London, and a leading expert in the history of maps and Renaissance cartography. His most recent book, The Sale of the Late King's Goods: Charles I and his Art Collection (2006), was short-listed for the Samuel Johnson Prize as well as the Hessell-Tiltman History Prize. In 2010, he was the presenter of the BBC4 series 'Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession'.
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Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.
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.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very obviously written by an academic - reams of information, but zero 'information design' nor narrative. Reminded me of being stuck in boring university lectures. Read morePublished 2 months ago by George Norris
I wish I had bought the hard back which is a larger format.Published 5 months ago by Mrs Kathryn Austin
This book has much promise .. but ... the print is so small it is tedious to read.Published 7 months ago by Meerkat
Bought as a gift for a friend, he was really pleased with it.Published 13 months ago by Mrs. D. Lawrinson
Gift well received fromreceiversit has interesting possibilitiesfot learningPublished 17 months ago by En Davidson