A History of the World in Twelve Maps

Front Cover
Allen Lane, 2012 - Cartography - 513 pages

Throughout history, maps have shaped our view of the world and our place in it. In this scintillating book, Jerry Brotton argues that far from being purely scientific objects, maps of the world are unavoidably partial and subjective, intimately bound up with the systems of power, authority and creativity of particular times and places. Mapmakers do not simply represent the world, they construct it out of the ideas of their age.

The book examines the significance of twelve world maps drawn from global history - beginning with the mystical representations of ancient history and ending with the satellite - derived imagery of today. It vividly recreates the environments and circumstances in which the maps were made, showing how each conveys a highly individual view of the world- the Jerusalem-centred Christian perspective of the fourteenth-century Herefordmappamundi; the earliest Korean map showing the world including Europe; the first truly globalised world view of the Portuguese Diogo Ribeiro in the early sixteenth century, the Peters projection of the 1970s which aimed to give equality to 'the third world'; and the earth according to Google. Brotton shows how the maps both influenced and reflected contemporary events and how, by reading it, we can better understand the world that produced it.

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 recreate 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  - 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

LibraryThing Review

User Review  - JBD1 - LibraryThing

This book doesn't exactly do what its title suggests it will, but it couldn't possibly do that anyway, so let's just set that aside as hyperbole. Brotton does offer profiles of important maps and ... Read full review

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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. In 2010, he was the presenter of the BBC4 series 'Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession'.

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