The Love of Maps

14470298_s I will tell you with no apology (and only a slight wiggle of nerdy embarrassment) that I love maps. I suppose it is theoretically possible to love history and not love maps. I just can’t imagine how that would work.* After all, history happens in both time and space. A quick look at the right map can illustrate a culture’s cosmography, the relationship between a region’s topography and its political history, or how trade in a single commodity** can drive history.

Pulling books off the shelf nearest to hand, I find maps of:

  • Possible Stone Age migrations through the Middle East based on the dispersal of blade tool technology
  • Changes in the course of the Missouri River
  • Railroads in India in 1857
  • The movement of capital throughout the world between 1875 and 1914***
  • The relationship between opera and nationalism in the same period
  • Pilgrimage routes and shrines in the medieval Islamic world

Each of them adds a new layer of understanding to an historical moment. (Well, maybe not the relationship between opera and nationalism.)

Given my penchant for maps, I was delighted to find this blog post on the curatorial site Twisted Sifter: 40 Maps That Will Help You Make Sense Of The World . Each map conveys information clearly. Some are merely curious. A couple made me sad. Many gave me an “aha” moment.


* If you’re a map-hating history lover, could you please share your experience with the group? I’d love to get a little point-counterpoint going here.
** Tin, salt, gold, silk, pepper, petroleum–to name a few
*** For those worried about the influx of Asian capital into the United States today, it’s worth pointing out that the US was an importer of capital prior to WWI.

Image credit: miluxian / 123RF Stock Photo


  1. HJ on August 20, 2013 at 8:45 pm

    I love maps too – both current and historical. The ones in the link you gave are interesting, especially the one which shows the countries which Britain has invaded – I found it rather surprising! I suspect a rather different meaning to “invade” than usual.

    • pamela on August 20, 2013 at 10:02 pm

      I found that one interesting, too. I suspect some of those invasions were pretty small scale.

  2. Gerry Toler on August 21, 2013 at 12:25 am

    …if you don’t know where you are going (have a map to show you), you will end up somewhere else…Now where did I hear that?

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.