- The History of Cartography. Volume Six. Cartography in the Twentieth Century ed. by Mark Monmonier
Maps and mapping have very much been a topic in global history over the last four decades as ideas and understandings of spatiality have been assessed, along with the use of mapping to reflect, impose, and shape both power and authority. The work in this field has come largely from cartographic specialists, rather than world historians, but the work of the former has been of significance for the study of global history. At the same time, the source of this specialiƵation itself poses problems—of both commission and omission—for the particular concerns of these specialists do not always contribute as much as they might to global history.
The key work has been the long-running History of Cartography project, published by the University of Chicago Press since 1987. This series has brought toward fruition a project that was planned in 1977 as a “general history” of mapmaking and was to have taken one million words and been published in four volumes, finishing by 1992. As with many similar schemes, this project was not realized. So far, there have been about four and a half million words in six volumes, comprised of eight books in total. The volumes on the eighteenth and nineteenth century remain unpublished. The first has gone into production, but the second is still in the early writing stage. Both these developments are matters not so much for congratulation as of relief as the delays had led to a sense of concern on the part of authors who delivered copy for volume four and had to face the prospect of their work going into a form of limbo for several years, which, in my case, led me to decide to publish it elsewhere.
It is pertinent to look at how far world history has been covered in this series. Initially, the signs were highly encouraging. Volume 1, [End Page 155] Cartography in Prehistoric, Ancient, and Medieval Europe and the Mediterranean (1987), an impressive book that was especially valuable for providing much information on Greek and Roman mapping and on the intellectual and practical background, was followed by what was intended to be a volume on Asian cartography. This became, instead, two volumes: 2.1, Cartography in the Traditional Islamic and South Asian Societies (1992) and the longer 2.2, Cartography in the Traditional East and Southeast Asian Societies (1994). In addition, another volume, (2.3), covered indigenous cartography: Cartography in the Traditional African, American, Arctic, Australian, and Pacific Societies (1998).
In many respects, these three volumes, and notably the last, were the most innovative and important of the entire sequence. These volumes were conceptually acute and genuinely extended the subject, notably in 2.3 and in the lengthy and ground-breaking coverage of India in 2.1. In contrast, volume three, Cartography in the European Renaissance (2007), was more traditional in its scope and method, not least in its resembling, at times, aspects of a cartobibliography. At 1.5 million words and two books, this volume was also not easy to use. At the same time, it was very impressive and a major scholarly achievement, notably in directing attention to parts of Europe not commonly well covered.
The new volume, volume 6, is strikingly different in that it adopts the approach of an encyclopedia, rather than the lengthy, often extremely lengthy, essays of earlier volumes. This new approach, which involves an alphabetical organiƵation, works extremely well, not least due to very good cross-referencing. As a separate issue of manageability, volume 6 is “restricted” to a million words. This change represents a response to the economics of publishing, but also opens the way to a renewed scrutiny of the choices made for inclusion and omission.
From the perspective of this journal, the question is not so much about individual entries, most of which are excellent, but, rather, the more general failure to engage adequately with the continuation of volume 2...