As geographers crowd into the edges of their maps parts of the world which they do not know about, adding notes in the margin to the effect that beyond this lies nothing but sandy deserts full of wild beasts, and unapproachable bogs… Plutarch


Maps – in their political aspect – are the graphic representation of the ability to project power, acquire and control resources and demonstrate precedence in the family [albeit highly dysfunctional] of nations. From the fall of Rome in the west in the 5th century A.D. until the rise of the modern nation states of Europe in the 15th century the fundamental units were feudal and while the size and shape shifted they were by and large contiguous, autonomous and small. There simply was no need for maps in a world where vast majority of the people lived and died within sight of where they were born. The consolidation of the feudal fiefdoms into nations required standing armies to hold them together and  greater resources to support an urbanizing society. This meant land. After the decimation of the Hundred’s Year War the Europeans realized they could not economically conquer one another and so they turned their gaze outward and four centuries of subjugating patribus infidelium in the name of God, Gold and Glory resulted with maps serving as the scorecard and the deed to territory controlled. This book is a wonderful history of the beginning of the process and the link you can follow from the title below is the best internet site for maps and cartography that we have found.

The mapmaker’s quest : depicting new worlds in Renaissance Europe Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2003      David Buisseret Cartography  Europe  History Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xxi, 227 p. : ill. (some col.) ; 17 x 24 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG

In 1400 Europe lagged far behind much of the world in its understanding of the use of maps. And yet, by 1600 the Europeans had come to use maps for a huge variety of tasks, and were far ahead of the rest of the world in their appreciation of the power and use of cartography. The Mapmakers’ Quest illuminates the forces behind this development–not only to tease out the strands of thought and practice which led to the use of maps, but also to assess the ways in which such use affected European societies and economies.

David Buisseret is one of the most eminent historians of cartography, and in this striking volume he offers a fresh and compelling approach to the cultural history of early modern Europe, revealing how the development of maps shaped and was shaped by larger movements.

Taking as a starting point the question of why there were so few maps in Europe in 1400 and so many by 1650, the book explores the reasons for this and its implications for European history. It examines how mapping and military technology advanced in tandem, how modern states’ territories were mapped and borders drawn up, the role of maps in shaping the urban environment, and cartography’s links to the new sciences.

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