6 of 10 people found the following review helpful
This review is from: Trading Territories: Mapping the Early Modern World (Picturing History) (Hardcover)
Looking through various academic reviews for this book, I wonder if any academic figure has actually read it. The universal glowing praise for this work betrays a laziness and lack of attention on the part of those called upon to review it for various journals.
While Brotton tackles an interesting subject, and does indeed make interesting points at times, I find it hard to overlook the various errors that are peppered throughout its pages. For instance, Brotton refers to Pedro and Jorge Reinel as brothers - any historian of cartography surely knows that two of the most famous cartographers from the early modern period were father and son. Astonishingly, Brotton quotes from a letter written by Lopez de Siqueira to Joao III, describing how "Pedro Reinel came to me [...] and told me that he has been invited together with his son to enter the Emperor's service", and refers to the Reinels (not for the first time in the same chapter) as brothers in the following sentence.(p. 133) It is an error repeated throughout the chapter, made all the more incredulous by the fact that Brotton quotes more than one source referring to Pedro and Jorge Reinel as father and son, yet seems to overlook or ignore this, continually referring to them as brothers. Brotton cites the excellent Portugaliae Monumenta Cartographica by Armando Cortesao and Avelino Teixeira da Mota as a source, yet one questions whether he actually read this 6-volume masterpiece, dealing as it does in detail with the life and work of both Reinels.
One repeated error it may be, yet it represents exactly what is wrong with this book - poor research, inaccurate (and often confusing) guesswork, awful editing (Magellan's voyage around the globe is given as 1522), and generally lazy academia. There is a paucity of primary sources - most of the references are from secondary material, and not well referenced at that.
While sections are informative and well written, it is hard to place any sort of faith in the quality of a book that has so many glaring errors, and it is thus impossible to recommend this work as an academic source.