A History of the World in Twelve Maps
Mapping is a basic instinct, argues Jerry Brotton: humans and animals use mapping procedures to locate themselves in space. Map-making, on the other hand--using graphic techniques to share spatial information--is an act of human imagination. It is never objective; the map is not the territory. And maps of the world are more subjective than most, embodying the worldview of the cultures that produce them. In A History of the World in Twelve Maps, Brotton, a British history professor, looks at world maps and the people who created them--and what they tell us about the time and place in which they were made. In the process, he tells the reader a great deal about how we view the world today.
Beginning with Ptolemy's Geography and ending with the virtual maps of Google Earth, Brotton considers maps and geographical theory from Islamic Sicily and 15th-century China as well as the more familiar worlds of medieval England and Renaissance Europe. He looks at different approaches to shared questions: how a map is oriented (north is not the universal answer), what scale to use, where the viewer stands in relation to the map and how to project a round earth on a flat surface. Along the way, he considers politics, religion, cosmology, mathematics, imperialism, scientific knowledge and artistic license. Each map is distinct; all have features in common.
A History of the World in Twelve Maps is global history in the most literal sense: 12 variations on a universal theme. --Pamela Toler, blogging at History in the Margins