Maps and Politics

Maps and Politics

Paperback Picturing History

By (author) Jeremy Black

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  • Publisher: Reaktion Books
  • Format: Paperback | 192 pages
  • Dimensions: 156mm x 234mm x 15mm | 485g
  • Publication date: 1 May 2001
  • Publication City/Country: London
  • ISBN 10: 1861890818
  • ISBN 13: 9781861890818
  • Illustrations note: 40 black & white illustrations, 20 colour illustrations
  • Sales rank: 467,700

Product description

We all rely on the apparent accuracy and objectivity of maps, but often do not see the very process of mapping as political. Are the power and purpose of maps inherently political? "Maps and Politics" addresses this important question and seeks to emphasize that the apparent objectivity' of the map-making and map-using process cannot be divorced from aspects of the politics of representation. Maps have played, and continue to play, a major role in both international and domestic politics. They show how visual geographical representations can be made to reflect and advance political agendas in powerful ways. The major developments in this field over the last century are responses both to cartographic progression and to a greater emphasis on graphic imagery in societies affected by politicization, democratization, and consumer and cultural shifts. Jeremy Black asks whether bias-free cartography is possible and demonstrates that maps are not straight-forward visual texts, but contain political and politicizing subtexts that need to be read with care.

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Author information

Jeremy Black is Professor of History at the University of Exeter, and the author or editor of over twenty books including Why Wars Happen (Reaktion, 1998), Britain since the Seventies (Reaktion, 2004) and War since 1945 (Reaktion, 2004).

Review quote

Reaktion Books has been producing ... closely argued and beautifully printed interrogations of the painting, the photograph, and the map. Black brings cartography within this archaeology, exploring in a series of telling and engaging anecdotes the hidden purposes and aesthetics of what seems, on the 2D surface, the most objective of represenatations. The Herald, Glasgow ... examines the technical and interpretative challenges that face cartographers and their ultimate customers ... excellent The Times Literary Supplement

Editorial reviews

As violent conflict once again punishes the Holy Land, it pays the neutral observer to consider the problems of the peacemakers as they entreat sworn enemies to accept a map they may both, one day, be able to live with. For just as the eventual contours of a peace deal will have to respond to the territorial and military preoocupations of both sides and their sponsors, the struggle over Jerusalem demonstrates that it must also satisfy spiritual, ethnic and economic criteria. This open wound in the Middle East reveals well how mapmaking is far more than just the delineation of borders, settlements and natural features - but a deeply ideological process coloured by rivalries and unfinished historical business. The issue of Jewish settlements exemplifies how the control of land can respond to a complex of religious and nationalist convictions, turning the distortion inherend in cartography into propoganda and polemic. For this reason, Black tells us, Zionist atlases both ignore Arab views and reinforce settler claims on the basis that they establish cultivation in previously arid lands. Black's singular ability to step back and read the map for what it really is displays a rare insight into its role as a statement or 'discourse', a phenomenon noted both by cartographic theorists and historians. The dizzying historical and technical scope of this book, which sweeps us from ancient China to Nasa's satellite maps - which, Black argues. are no less subjective than other maps concealing messages - is complemented by a careful consideration of the difficult choices facing cartographers in mapping our socio-political environment. If its theoretical scope leaves on, at times, a little lost, it is because Black is brave enough to steer off the main road and into the undergrowth where most map users never dare to tread. (Kirkus UK)