On this page we will review books about history, geography and maps which we recommend.
Books about History
In this marvelous work of history (and geography), Black Sea: Coasts and Conquests: From Pericles to Putin, Neal Ascherson, takes us on multiple journeys to the places and peoples of the Black Sea, the cradle of European languages and civilization. While not a chronological timeline history of the rise and fall of empires on the coasts of the sea, the book brings together the story of the peoples of the sea in an engaging and enriching manner so at the end you have a picture of what the sea has meant to people and how the sea has been affected by those who have lived on its shores. The sea and its hinterland, now war torn, has been central to the Greeks, Persians, Turks, Russians, Poles among others. The book will introduce you to the distant past of the Kurgan culture, the Greek city colonies, the Scythians and the Sarmatians, and forgotten empires like the Bosporan Kingdom, as well as the more recent history of the Soviet empire and the post-Soviet ehtno-linguistic conflicts of the 21st century. it is a fascinating story of people, language and belonging, as well as the remarkable wave effects on Europe throughout the ages of the Black Sea peoples.
This book is available from Amazon and elsewhere.
Books about Geography
Books about Maps
Riaz Dean provides a much need history of the Great Trigonometrical Survey of India, and tells the story of how this enormous country was mapped.
Dean provides a complete survey from the times of the Honourable East India company to the early years of the 20th century.
The most important part of the book though is where it tells the story of the unknown pundits who explored places the British officers of the Survey could not go: men like Abdul Hamid, Mirza Shuja, Hyder Shah, Nain, Kishen and Jusmal Singh, and Abdul Subhan, These men secretly mapped the marches of the Raj in an enormous and hugely important scientific endeavour – their names should be much more widely known.
Of note is the Afghan saying Dean quotes: “First comes one Englishman for shikar (hunting), then come two to draw a map, and then comes an army to take your land. so, it is best to kill the first Englishman.”
John Clark’s Maps that changed the world is a comprehensive survey of the history of cartography, with sections on The Earliest Maps, Cartographic Breakthroughs (from Ptolemy, to satellite and space probe mapping), The Age of Exploration, Military Maps, Drawing the Line, and Fantasies, Follies and Fabrications. With short, clear chapters (in two column text), and copious illustrations this book is a feast for anyone who would like to understand the significant moments in mapping history.
The Red Atlas by John Davies and Alexander Kent is a fascinating, if partial, account of how the Soviet Union mapped the world in its Red Army mapping project – mainly through copyright theft but also through early satellite reconnaissance and spying. The book is a detective story and forensic analysis of this project from the evidence left behind after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The Jana Seta bookshop in Riga where you can buy original Soviet maps.