Review – A History of the World in Twelve Maps

Posted February 4, 2017 by Nicky in Reviews / 2 Comments

Cover of A History of the World in 12 MapsA History of the World in Twelve Maps, Jerry Brotton

I was fascinated by the idea of this: of course maps are a huge part of how we understand our world, and the way we format our maps is a big giveaway to the way we feel about the world. A map covered in clearly-marked borders marks separations and national boundaries; different maps with disputed borders show areas of conflict. Maps can reveal belonging and isolation and the limits of the human imagination.

Unfortunately, Brotton’s writing is really dry, from my perspective, and I wasn’t always convinced about his choice of maps. Or rather, he would pick maps and then talk about almost everything but the map: the context the map came from, yes, the politics of those that made it, yes. But the map itself, less so. Now, context is a great thing — hello, I was pretty much exclusively a new historicist as a literature postgrad — but I wanted more about the maps. More images would probably have helped, too.

If you’re more interested in the history of cartography and geography than I am, this is probably a great book. It just didn’t quite take the angle I was looking for.

Rating: 2/5

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2 responses to “Review – A History of the World in Twelve Maps

  1. Your review confirms what I suspected: the title and concept sounded fascinating, but not enough for a book. Perhaps a good National Geographic feature would have been a better way to tackle this idea…
    It’s a book I’ve picked up many a time in Waterstones, and then put it back. Glad I did now!

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