Christian maps of the Middle Ages depicted the world as a flat disc centred on Jerusalem. Geography was subordinated to theology, while a variety of mythical beasts were shown to inhabit the unknown outer reaches. Maps compiled today with the aid of the latest developments in satellite and computer technology appear to offer a far more objective view, precisely delineating the outlines of the world. The difference between these two forms of mapping is only relative, however. Each gives a particular perspective on the world. Neither is entirely objective or entirely illusory. Like all other cultural products, maps are subject to strict conventions. What is represented and how depends on a number of contingencies as does the meaning attributed to the map. The map continues to owe as much to particular understandings of a territory as to the territory itself, if not more. There is and can be no such thing as a purely objective map, one that simply reproduces a pre-existing reality. Choices always have to be made about what to represent and how, and what to leave out. It is here that cartographic meaning is created. To be included on the map is to be granted the status of reality or importance.
KeywordsWorld View Sixteenth Century Colonial Power Territorial Claim Rational Teleology
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