Hello, everyone, this is Nicholas Schneier and this will be my blog for HIST 615 006: History and Cartography. I’ve never blogged or anything like that before, so this is a rather new experience for me. Apologies if I dramatically mess up anything, but without further ado let’s get on with the show!
All the readings for this week concerned the use of maps as historical sources rather than mere guides of distance, a concept I was already familiar with thanks to some superb teachers in high school, so some of the arguments that historical maps can be under-appreciated by historians came as a surprise. However, though I was already aware how social and political factors broadly influence a map, never before had it occurred to me that even the little details can be influenced too. Harley’s arguments pointed out to me that cultural and political factors do more than omit Israel on an Arab map or Taiwan on a Chinese map. I had never thought to look at the various drawings and depictions on older maps as anything more than decorative or amusing. Harley made me realize that the at times humorous depictions of explorers, sea monsters, wildlife, and such are not on the map purely because the cartographer was feeling artistic that day; the depictions further convey the wild from the civilized, elevating the prestige of some and belittling another. I guess it just goes to show that nothing winds up on a map “just because;” everything has a purpose and an angle, some more subtle than others.