A History of the World in Twelve Maps

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Penguin UK, Sep 6, 2012 - Science - 544 pages

Jerry Brotton is the presenter of the acclaimed BBC4 series 'Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession'. Here he tells the story of our world through maps.

Throughout history, maps have been fundamental in shaping our view of the world, and our place in it. But far from being purely scientific objects, world maps are unavoidably ideological and subjective, intimately bound up with the systems of power and authority of particular times and places. Mapmakers do not simply represent the world, they construct it out of the ideas of their age.

In this scintillating book, Jerry Brotton examines the significance of 12 maps - from the mystical representations of ancient history to the satellite-derived imagery of today. He vividly recreates the environments and circumstances in which each of the maps was made, showing how each conveys a highly individual view of the world - whether the Jerusalem-centred Christian perspective of the 14th century Hereford Mappa Mundi or the Peters projection of the 1970s which aimed to give due weight to 'the third world'.

Although the way we map our surroundings is once more changing dramatically, Brotton argues that maps today are no more definitive or objective than they have ever been - but that they continue to make arguments and propositions about the world, and to recreate, shape and mediate our view of it. Readers of this book will never look at a map in quite the same way again.


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LibraryThing Review

User Review  - PDCRead - LibraryThing

In lots of ways this is a fascinating book, picking up on the trend to look at a historical subject in the context of a single item or area. It was first started by the book A History of the World in ... Read full review

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User Review  - pbjwelch - LibraryThing

It took me forever (OK, a couple of weeks) to finish this book because I kept flipping back to previous chapters because I wanted to review something or check something…in short, this is one terrific ... Read full review


List of Figures
Ptolemys Geography c AD 150
AlIdrīsī AD 1154
Hereford Mappamundi c 1300
Kangnido World Map 1402
Martin Waldseemüller World Map 1507
Halford Mackinder The Geographical Pivot
ThePeters Projection 1973 12 Information Google Earth 2012

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About the author (2012)

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, and led to him being short-listed for the THES Young Academic Author of the Year Award. He has appeared on various British TV programmes, including 'Leonardo' (BBC1), 'The Medici' (Channel 4) and 'Great British Islam' (Channel 4), and he was the presenter of the BBC4 series 'Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession' in 2010.

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