Daily Archives: January 22, 2018

Decolonizing the Map: Cartography from Colony to Nation (The Kenneth Nebenzahl Jr. Lectures in the History of Cartography): James R. Akerman

Almost universally, newly independent states seek to affirm their independence and identity by making the production of new maps and atlases a top priority. For formerly colonized peoples, however, this process neither begins nor ends with independence, and it is rarely straightforward. Mapping their own land is fraught with a fresh set of issues: how to define and administer their territories, develop their national identity, establish their role in the community of nations, and more. The contributors to Decolonizing the Map explore this complicated relationship between mapping and decolonization while engaging with recent theoretical debates about the nature of decolonization itself.

These essays, originally delivered as the 2010 Kenneth Nebenzahl, Jr., Lectures in the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library, encompass more than two centuries and three continents—Latin America, Africa, and Asia. Ranging from the late eighteenth century through the mid-twentieth, contributors study topics from mapping and national identity in late colonial Mexico to the enduring complications created by the partition of British India and the racialized organization of space in apartheid and post-apartheid South Africa. A vital contribution to studies of both colonization and cartography, Decolonizing the Map is the first book to systematically and comprehensively examine the engagement of mapping in the long—and clearly unfinished—parallel processes of decolonization and nation building in the modern world.

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Dislocating the Orient: British Maps and the Making of the Middle East, 1854-1921: Daniel Foliard

While the twentieth century’s conflicting visions and exploitation of the Middle East are well documented, the origins of the concept of the Middle East itself have been largely ignored. With Dislocating the Orient, Daniel Foliard tells the story of how the land was brought into being, exploring how maps, knowledge, and blind ignorance all participated in the construction of this imagined region. Foliard vividly illustrates how the British first defined the Middle East as a geopolitical and cartographic region in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries through their imperial maps. Until then, the region had never been clearly distinguished from “the East” or “the Orient.” In the course of their colonial activities, however, the British began to conceive of the Middle East as a separate and distinct part of the world, with consequences that continue to be felt today. As they reimagined boundaries, the British produced, disputed, and finally dramatically transformed the geography of the area—both culturally and physically—over the course of their colonial era.

Using a wide variety of primary texts and historical maps to show how the idea of the Middle East came into being, Dislocating the Orient will interest historians of the Middle East, the British empire, cultural geography, and cartography.

Mapping South Africa: A Historical Survey of South African Maps and Charts

Filled with beautiful reproductions of some 85 maps, this is the first survey of the fascinating story of maps and mapmaking in the subcontinent. Beginning with the Portuguese voyages of exploration in the late 15th century, it explores the attempts of the Dutch and the British to chart and lay claim to the vast and expanding landscape of the Cape Colony. Subsequent chapters investigate the maps of the Eastern Cape, where a series of frontier wars led to an outpouring of cartography, as well as the maps of colonial Natal and the Boer Republics of the Transvaal and Free State, where cartography was driven, conversely, by the dictates of colonization and land exploitation.

Drawing upon several scholarly articles, this history reveals an appreciation of the close relation between science, exploration, and cartography and gives due prominence to the role played by individuals as well as institutions in producing maps of increasing accuracy and detail.

Indian Summer: Lutyens, Baker and Imperial Delhi: Robert Grant Irving

A description of the planning and construction of the English government buildings in Delhi includes examinations of the designs of the architects, Sir Herbert Baker and Sir Edwin Landseer Lutyens

Gaining Ground: A History of Landmaking in Boston: Nancy S. Seasholes

Why and how Boston was transformed by landmaking.

Fully one-sixth of Boston is built on made land. Although other waterfront cities also have substantial areas that are built on fill, Boston probably has more than any city in North America. In Gaining Ground historian Nancy Seasholes has given us the first complete account of when, why, and how this land was created.The story of landmaking in Boston is presented geographically; each chapter traces landmaking in a different part of the city from its first permanent settlement to the present. Seasholes introduces findings from recent archaeological investigations in Boston, and relates landmaking to the major historical developments that shaped it.

At the beginning of the nineteenth century, landmaking in Boston was spurred by the rapid growth that resulted from the burgeoning China trade. The influx of Irish immigrants in the mid-nineteenth century prompted several large projects to create residential land — not for the Irish, but to keep the taxpaying Yankees from fleeing to the suburbs. Many landmaking projects were undertaken to cover tidal flats that had been polluted by raw sewage discharged directly onto them, removing the “pestilential exhalations” thought to cause illness. Land was also added for port developments, public parks, and transportation facilities, including the largest landmaking project of all, the airport.

A separate chapter discusses the technology of landmaking in Boston, explaining the basic method used to make land and the changes in its various components over time. The book is copiously illustrated with maps that show the original shoreline in relation to today’s streets, details from historical maps that trace the progress of landmaking, and historical drawings and photographs.

Inventing the Charles River (MIT Press)

An illustrated account of the creation of the Charles River Basin, focusing on the precarious balance between transportation planning and the stewardship of the public realm.

The Charles River Basin, extending nine miles upstream from the harbor, has been called Boston’s “Central Park.” Yet few realize that this apparently natural landscape is a totally fabricated public space. Two hundred years ago the Charles was a tidal river, edged by hundreds of acres of salt marshes and mudflats. Inventing the Charles River describes how, before the creation of the basin could begin, the river first had to be imagined as a single public space. The new esplanades along the river changed the way Bostonians perceived their city; and the basin, with its expansive views of Boston and Cambridge, became an iconic image of the metropolis.

The book focuses on the precarious balance between transportation planning and stewardship of the public realm. Long before the esplanades were realized, great swaths of the river were given over to industrial enterprises and transportation — millponds, bridges, landfills, and a complex network of road and railway bridges. In 1929, Boston’s first major highway controversy erupted when a four-lane road was proposed as part of a new esplanade. At twenty-year intervals, three riverfront road disputes followed, successively more complex and disputatious, culminating in the lawsuits over “Scheme Z,” the Big Dig’s plan for eighteen lanes of highway ramps and bridges over the river. More than four hundred photographs, maps, and drawings illustrate past and future visions for the Charles and document the river’s place in Boston’s history.

Mapping Boston: Alex Krieger, David Cobb, Norman B. Leventhal, Amy Turner

An informative — and beautiful — exploration of the life and history of a city through its maps.

To the attentive user even the simplest map can reveal not only where things are but how people perceive and imagine the spaces they occupy. Mapping Boston is an exemplar of such creative attentiveness — bringing the history of one of America’s oldest and most beautiful cities alive through the maps that have depicted it over the centuries.The book includes both historical maps of the city and maps showing the gradual emergence of the New England region from the imaginations of explorers to a form that we would recognize today. Each map is accompanied by a full description and by a short essay offering an insight into its context. The topics of these essays by Anne Mackin include people both familiar and unknown, landmarks, and events that were significant in shaping the landscape or life of the city. A highlight of the book is a series of new maps detailing Boston’s growth.

The book also contains seven essays that explore the intertwining of maps and history. Urban historian Sam Bass Warner, Jr., starts with a capsule history of Boston. Barbara McCorkle, David Bosse, and David Cobb discuss the making and trading of maps from the sixteenth to the nineteenth century. Historian Nancy S. Seasholes reviews the city’s remarkable topographic history as reflected in maps, and planner Alex Krieger explores the relation between maps and the physical reality of the city as experienced by residents and visitors. In an epilogue, novelist James Carroll ponders the place of Boston in contemporary culture and the interior maps we carry of a city.