Rhumb Lines and Map Wars: A Social History of the Mercator Projection

University of Chicago Press
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In Rhumb Lines and Map Wars, Mark Monmonier offers an insightful, richly illustrated account of the controversies surrounding Flemish cartographer Gerard Mercator's legacy. He takes us back to 1569, when Mercator announced a clever method of portraying the earth on a flat surface, creating the first projection to take into account the earth's roundness. As Monmonier shows, mariners benefited most from Mercator's projection, which allowed for easy navigation of the high seas with rhumb lines—clear-cut routes with a constant compass bearing—for true direction. But the projection's popularity among nineteenth-century sailors led to its overuse—often in inappropriate, non-navigational ways—for wall maps, world atlases, and geopolitical propaganda.

Because it distorts the proportionate size of countries, the Mercator map was criticized for inflating Europe and North America in a promotion of colonialism. In 1974, German historian Arno Peters proffered his own map, on which countries were ostensibly drawn in true proportion to one another. In the ensuing "map wars" of the 1970s and 1980s, these dueling projections vied for public support—with varying degrees of success.

Widely acclaimed for his accessible, intelligent books on maps and mapping, Monmonier here examines the uses and limitations of one of cartography's most significant innovations. With informed skepticism, he offers insightful interpretations of why well-intentioned clerics and development advocates rallied around the Peters projection, which flagrantly distorted the shape of Third World nations; why journalists covering the controversy ignored alternative world maps and other key issues; and how a few postmodern writers defended the Peters worldview with a self-serving overstatement of the power of maps. Rhumb Lines and Map Wars is vintage Monmonier: historically rich, beautifully written, and fully engaged with the issues of our time.
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About the author

Mark Monmonier is Distinguished Professor of Geography at Syracuse University's Maxwell School of Citizenship and Public Affairs and author of How to Lie with Maps, Cartographies of Danger, Air Apparent, and Spying with Maps, the winner of the 2002 Globe Book Award for Public Understanding of Geography, all published by the University of Chicago Press.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Nov 15, 2010
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Pages
256
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ISBN
9780226534329
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Expeditions & Discoveries
Science / Earth Sciences / Geography
Science / General
Technology & Engineering / Cartography
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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In today’s world of online maps and travel directions delivered wirelessly to hand-held devices, getting from place to place requires little thought from most of us—which is a good thing, since accurate navigation can be tricky. Get your bearings with Mark Denny—an expert at explaining scientific concepts in non-technical language—in this all-encompassing look at the history and science of navigation.

Denny’s tour kicks off with key facts about the earth and how its physical properties affect travel. He discusses cartography and early mapmakers, revealing fascinating tidbits such as how changes over time of the direction of true north, as well as of magnetic north, impacted navigation. Denny details the evolution of navigation from the days of coastal piloting to GPS and other modern-day technologies. He explains the scientific breakthroughs in accessible, amusing terms and provides an insightful look at their effects on societies, cultures, and human advancement. Throughout, Denny frames the long history of navigation with amazing tales of such people as Pytheas, an ancient Greek navigator, and Sir Francis Drake and of such discoveries as the magnetic compass and radio direction finding.

Whether you have an interest in orienteering and geocaching or want to know more about the critical role navigation has played in human survival and progress since ancient people learned to use lodestones, The Science of Navigation is for you. With it you’ll finally understand the why of wayfinding.

Some maps help us find our way; others restrict where we go and what we do. These maps control behavior, regulating activities from flying to fishing, prohibiting students from one part of town from being schooled on the other, and banishing certain individuals and industries to the periphery. This restrictive cartography has boomed in recent decades as governments seek regulate activities as diverse as hiking, building a residence, opening a store, locating a chemical plant, or painting your house anything but regulation colors. It is this aspect of mapping—its power to prohibit—that celebrated geographer Mark Monmonier tackles in No Dig, No Fly, No Go.

Rooted in ancient Egypt’s need to reestablish property boundaries following the annual retreat of the Nile’s floodwaters, restrictive mapping has been indispensable in settling the American West, claiming slices of Antarctica, protecting fragile ocean fisheries, and keeping sex offenders away from playgrounds. But it has also been used for opprobrium: during one of the darkest moments in American history, cartographic exclusion orders helped send thousands of Japanese Americans to remote detention camps. Tracing the power of prohibitive mapping at multiple levels—from regional to international—and multiple dimensions—from property to cyberspace—Monmonier demonstrates how much boundaries influence our experience—from homeownership and voting to taxation and airline travel. A worthy successor to his critically acclaimed How to Lie with Maps, the book is replete with all of the hallmarks of a Monmonier classic, including the wry observations and witty humor.

In the end, Monmonier looks far beyond the lines on the page to observe that mapped boundaries, however persuasive their appearance, are not always as permanent and impermeable as their cartographic lines might suggest. Written for anyone who votes, owns a home, or aspires to be an informed citizen, No Dig, No Fly. No Go will change the way we look at maps forever.
No place is perfectly safe, but some places are more dangerous than others. Whether we live on a floodplain or in "Tornado Alley," near a nuclear facility or in a neighborhood poorly lit at night, we all co-exist uneasily with natural and man-made hazards. As Mark Monmonier shows in this entertaining and immensely informative book, maps can tell us a lot about where we can anticipate certain hazards, but they can also be dangerously misleading.

California, for example, takes earthquakes seriously, with a comprehensive program of seismic mapping, whereas Washington has been comparatively lax about earthquakes in Puget Sound. But as the Northridge earthquake in January 1994 demonstrated all too clearly to Californians, even reliable seismic-hazard maps can deceive anyone who misinterprets "known fault-lines" as the only places vulnerable to earthquakes.

Important as it is to predict and prepare for catastrophic natural hazards, more subtle and persistent phenomena such as pollution and crime also pose serious dangers that we have to cope with on a daily basis. Hazard-zone maps highlight these more insidious hazards and raise awareness about them among planners, local officials, and the public.

With the help of many maps illustrating examples from all corners of the United States, Monmonier demonstrates how hazard mapping reflects not just scientific understanding of hazards but also perceptions of risk and how risk can be reduced. Whether you live on a faultline or a coastline, near a toxic waste dump or an EMF-generating power line, you ignore this book's plain-language advice on geographic hazards and how to avoid them at your own peril.

"No one should buy a home, rent an apartment, or even drink the local water without having read this fascinating cartographic alert on the dangers that lurk in our everyday lives. . . . Who has not asked where it is safe to live? Cartographies of Danger provides the answer."—H. J. de Blij, NBC News

"Even if you're not interested in maps, you're almost certainly interested in hazards. And this book is one of the best places I've seen to learn about them in a highly entertaining and informative fashion."—John Casti, New Scientist

The #1 New York Times and Wall Street Journal bestseller, named one of the best books of the year by The Boston Globe and National Geographic: acclaimed journalist Douglas Preston takes readers on a true adventure deep into the Honduran rainforest in this riveting narrative about the discovery of a lost civilization -- culminating in a stunning medical mystery.
Since the days of conquistador Hernán Cortés, rumors have circulated about a lost city of immense wealth hidden somewhere in the Honduran interior, called the White City or the Lost City of the Monkey God. Indigenous tribes speak of ancestors who fled there to escape the Spanish invaders, and they warn that anyone who enters this sacred city will fall ill and die. In 1940, swashbuckling journalist Theodore Morde returned from the rainforest with hundreds of artifacts and an electrifying story of having found the Lost City of the Monkey God-but then committed suicide without revealing its location.


Three quarters of a century later, bestselling author Doug Preston joined a team of scientists on a groundbreaking new quest. In 2012 he climbed aboard a rickety, single-engine plane carrying the machine that would change everything: lidar, a highly advanced, classified technology that could map the terrain under the densest rainforest canopy. In an unexplored valley ringed by steep mountains, that flight revealed the unmistakable image of a sprawling metropolis, tantalizing evidence of not just an undiscovered city but an enigmatic, lost civilization.


Venturing into this raw, treacherous, but breathtakingly beautiful wilderness to confirm the discovery, Preston and the team battled torrential rains, quickmud, disease-carrying insects, jaguars, and deadly snakes. But it wasn't until they returned that tragedy struck: Preston and others found they had contracted in the ruins a horrifying, sometimes lethal-and incurable-disease.


Suspenseful and shocking, filled with colorful history, hair-raising adventure, and dramatic twists of fortune, THE LOST CITY OF THE MONKEY GOD is the absolutely true, eyewitness account of one of the great discoveries of the twenty-first century.
Writers know only too well how long it can take—and how awkward it can be—to describe spatial relationships with words alone. And while a map might not always be worth a thousand words, a good one can help writers communicate an argument or explanation clearly, succinctly, and effectively.

In his acclaimed How to Lie with Maps, Mark Monmonier showed how maps can distort facts. In Mapping it Out: Expository Cartography for the Humanities and Social Sciences, he shows authors and scholars how they can use expository cartography—the visual, two-dimensional organization of information—to heighten the impact of their books and articles.

This concise, practical book is an introduction to the fundamental principles of graphic logic and design, from the basics of scale to the complex mapping of movement or change. Monmonier helps writers and researchers decide when maps are most useful and what formats work best in a wide range of subject areas, from literary criticism to sociology. He demonstrates, for example, various techniques for representing changes and patterns; different typefaces and how they can either clarify or confuse information; and the effectiveness of less traditional map forms, such as visibility base maps, frame-rectangle symbols, and complementary scatterplot designs for conveying complex spatial relationships.

There is also a wealth of practical information on map compilation, cartobibliographies, copyright and permissions, facsimile reproduction, and the evaluation of source materials. Appendixes discuss the benefits and limitations of electronic graphics and pen-and-ink drafting, and how to work with a cartographic illustrator.

Clearly written, and filled with real-world examples, Mapping it Out demystifies mapmaking for anyone writing in the humanities and social sciences.

"A useful guide to a subject most people probably take too much for granted. It shows how map makers translate abstract data into eye-catching cartograms, as they are called. It combats cartographic illiteracy. It fights cartophobia. It may even teach you to find your way."—Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, The New York Times
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