Maps and History (Paperback)

Constructing Images of the Past

By Jeremy Black

Yale University Press, 9780300086935, 280pp.

Publication Date: September 10, 2000

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Historical atlases offer an understanding of the past that is invaluable to historians, not only because they convey a previous age's sense of space and distance but also because they reveal what historians and educators of those periods thought important to include or omit. This book—the first comprehensive and wide-ranging account of the historical atlas—explores the role, development, and nature of this important reference and discusses its impact on the presentation of the past.

Jeremy Black begins with a consideration of the "pre-history" of the historical atlas: individual maps depicting the Holy Land at the time of Christ and maps of the classical world. He then examines the first known historical atlas, the Parergon of Abraham Ortel, which was published in Antwerp in 1579 and was followed by other works that mapped the world of the Bible and the classics. In the eighteenth century, there was a growing interest in mapping the post-Classical world, and works appeared that included maps of medieval Europe. In the nineteenth century, historical maps came increasingly to embody a clear political emphasis, mapping blocs of territory separated by clear linear frontiers and reflecting an approach to the past focused on undivided sovereignty and the development of the nation-state.

In the twentieth century, historical atlases have both contributed to and responded to other ideologies, portraying peoples, languages, and cultural differences in an immediate and often striking visual form. Since 1945 the range of atlases has broadened to include maps devoted to the global environment, health, population trends, and other sociological, cultural, and economic changes. And the "liberation" of the Third World and the ending of the Cold War have stimulated a full scale re-mapping of the globe and the way it is perceived.

About the Author

Jeremy Black is professor of history at the University of Exeter. He is the author of twenty-one books on British and European history, including European Warfare, 1660-1815, published by Yale University Press.