A History of the World in Twelve Maps, Paperback

A History of the World in Twelve Maps Paperback

3 out of 5 (1 rating)


Throughout history, maps have been fundamental in shaping our view of the world, and our place in it.

But far from being purely scientific objects, maps of the world are unavoidably ideological and subjective, intimately bound up with the systems of power and authority of particular times and places.

Mapmakers do not simply represent the world, they construct it out of the ideas of their age.

In this scintillating book, Jerry Brotton examines the significance of 12 maps - from the almost mystical representations of ancient history to the satellite-derived imagery of today.

He vividly recreates the environments and circumstances in which each of the maps was made, showing how each conveys a highly individual view of the world.

Brotton shows how each of his maps both influenced and reflected contemporary events and how, by reading it, we can better understand the worlds that produced it.

Although the way we map our surroundings is changing, Brotton argues that maps today are no more definitive or objective than they have ever been, but that they continue to define, shape and recreate the world.

Readers of this book will never look at a map in quite the same way again.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 544 pages, 64 pp colour inset
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Historical maps & atlases
  • ISBN: 9780141034935



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This is an interesting surmise that follows in the vein of recent books looking at the evolution of a item through time. It's not so much a history of the world, so much as a history of the way we've seen the world and tried to represent it. The maps selected were quite varied, some more famous than others. The chapters are arranged in date order, but each is assigned a thematic title. I'm not sure that necessarily works well, but it does go together with the concept that the maps are all a product of their time and contain more information than just what is where in the world. Each is a product of its time and that viewpoint is reflected in the map that is produced. The chapters contain sufficient detail that the map itself is put into context of its time and the maps that have been previously discussed. There was a summary chapter at the end, and it might have been nice had this explained why the maps selected were chosen, and what other examples might have been used. The paperback had the colour illustrations in 2 lots, and it might have been nice had the text actually referenced the images, but that's a minor quibble. There is a lot of detail in here and it's a very interesting surmise. Worth reading.

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