Books about Maps and Books of Maps

This 2023 book by Christian Grataloup published by Thames and Hudson is an essential addition to a GeoHistorian’s bookcase. Organized chronologically it provides maps on a huge range of themes which illustrate our human history: religion, exploration, warfare, empires, trade, colonialism, popular culture and climate change. Clearly, much thought has gone into the maps, to provide comprehensive coverage of 7 million years of human history. I have only noticed three errors: the statement on page 33 that the Fertile Crescent gave birth to Islam; the statement on page 89 that the Aurelian walls around Rome were constructed in the 3rd century BCE – only 600 years out; and the dates of the invasion of Germanie by the Romans on page 97 – where the year has been omitted. These are relatively minor errors, and such errors are always likely to creep in to such a monumental work as this, and they do not prevent me from recommending this work wholeheartedly. The maps are stunning and the text concise and informative. This is a must buy.

A History of the World in 500 Maps

Mapping the Great Game

Riaz Dean provides a much needed 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.”

Mapping the Great Game

Maps that Changed the World

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.

Maps that changed the world.

The Red Atlas

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 Red Atlas

The Jana Seta bookshop in Riga where you can buy original Soviet maps.