After the Map: Cartography, Navigation, and the Transformation of Territory in the Twentieth Century

University of Chicago Press
This book will become available on August 3, 2018. You will not be charged until it is released.

For most of the twentieth century, maps were indispensable. They were how governments understood, managed, and defended their territory, and during the two world wars they were produced by the hundreds of millions. Cartographers and journalists predicted the dawning of a “map-minded age,” where increasingly state-of-the-art maps would become everyday tools. By the century’s end, however, there had been decisive shift in mapping practices, as the dominant methods of land surveying and print publication were increasingly displaced by electronic navigation systems.

In After the Map, William Rankin argues that although this shift did not render traditional maps obsolete, it did radically change our experience of geographic knowledge, from the God’s-eye view of the map to the embedded subjectivity of GPS. Likewise, older concerns with geographic truth and objectivity have been upstaged by a new emphasis on simplicity, reliability, and convenience. After the Map shows how this change in geographic perspective is ultimately a transformation of the nature of territory, both social and political.
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About the author

William Rankin is assistant professor of the history of science at Yale University. He lives in New Haven, Connecticut.
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Additional Information

Publisher
University of Chicago Press
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Published on
Aug 3, 2018
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Pages
416
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ISBN
9780226339535
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Language
English
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Genres
History / General
History / Modern / 20th Century
Science / Earth Sciences / Geography
Technology & Engineering / Cartography
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Available on Android devices
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Eligible for Family Library

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Since that ancient day when the first human drew a line connecting Point A to Point B, maps have been understood as one of the most essential tools of communication. Despite differences in language, appearance, or culture, maps are universal touchstones in human civilization.

Over the centuries, maps have served many varied purposes; far from mere guides for reaching a destination, they are unique artistic forms, aides in planning commercial routes, literary devices for illuminating a story. Accuracy—or inaccuracy—of maps has been the make-or-break factor in countless military battles throughout history. They have graced the walls of homes, bringing prestige and elegance to their owners. They track the mountains, oceans, and stars of our existence. Maps help us make sense of our worlds both real and imaginary—they bring order to the seeming chaos of our surroundings.

With The Curious Map Book, Ashley Baynton-Williams gathers an amazing, chronologically ordered variety of cartographic gems, mainly from the vast collection of the British Library. He has unearthed a wide array of the whimsical and fantastic, from maps of board games to political ones, maps of the Holy Land to maps of the human soul. In his illuminating introduction, Baynton-Williams also identifies and expounds upon key themes of map production, peculiar styles, and the commerce and collection of unique maps. This incredible volume offers a wealth of gorgeous illustrations for anyone who is cartographically curious.
Almost universally, newly independent states seek to affirm their independence and identity by making the production of new maps and atlases a top priority. For formerly colonized peoples, however, this process neither begins nor ends with independence, and it is rarely straightforward. Mapping their own land is fraught with a fresh set of issues: how to define and administer their territories, develop their national identity, establish their role in the community of nations, and more. The contributors to Decolonizing the Map explore this complicated relationship between mapping and decolonization while engaging with recent theoretical debates about the nature of decolonization itself.

These essays, originally delivered as the 2010 Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library, encompass more than two centuries and three continents—Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Ranging from the late eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth, contributors study topics from mapping and national identity in late colonial Mexico to the enduring complications created by the partition of British India and the racialized organization of space in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. A vital contribution to studies of both colonization and cartography, Decolonizing the Map is the first book to systematically and comprehensively examine the engagement of mapping in the long—and clearly unfinished—parallel processes of decolonization and nation building in the modern world.
"Old maps lead you to strange and unexpected places, and none does so more ineluctably than the subject of this book: the giant, beguiling Waldseemüller world map of 1507." So begins this remarkable story of the map that gave America its name.

For millennia Europeans believed that the world consisted of three parts: Europe, Africa, and Asia. They drew the three continents in countless shapes and sizes on their maps, but occasionally they hinted at the existence of a "fourth part of the world," a mysterious, inaccessible place, separated from the rest by a vast expanse of ocean. It was a land of myth—until 1507, that is, when Martin Waldseemüller and Matthias Ringmann, two obscure scholars working in the mountains of eastern France, made it real. Columbus had died the year before convinced that he had sailed to Asia, but Waldseemüller and Ringmann, after reading about the Atlantic discoveries of Columbus’s contemporary Amerigo Vespucci, came to a startling conclusion: Vespucci had reached the fourth part of the world. To celebrate his achievement, Waldseemüller and Ringmann printed a huge map, for the first time showing the New World surrounded by water and distinct from Asia, and in Vespucci’s honor they gave this New World a name: America.


The Fourth Part of the World is the story behind that map, a thrilling saga of geographical and intellectual exploration, full of outsize thinkers and voyages. Taking a kaleidoscopic approach, Toby Lester traces the origins of our modern worldview. His narrative sweeps across continents and centuries, zeroing in on different portions of the map to reveal strands of ancient legend, Biblical prophecy, classical learning, medieval exploration, imperial ambitions, and more. In Lester’s telling the map comes alive: Marco Polo and the early Christian missionaries trek across Central Asia and China; Europe’s early humanists travel to monastic libraries to recover ancient texts; Portuguese merchants round up the first West African slaves; Christopher Columbus and Amerigo Vespucci make their epic voyages of discovery; and finally, vitally, Nicholas Copernicus makes an appearance, deducing from the new geography shown on the Waldseemüller map that the earth could not lie at the center of the cosmos. The map literally altered humanity’s worldview.

One thousand copies of the map were printed, yet only one remains. Discovered accidentally in 1901 in the library of a German castle it was bought in 2003 for the unprecedented sum of $10 million by the Library of Congress, where it is now on permanent public display. Lavishly illustrated with rare maps and diagrams, The Fourth Part of the World is the story of that map: the dazzling story of the geographical and intellectual journeys that have helped us decipher our world.
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