A History of the World in Twelve Maps
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A History of the World in Twelve Maps

3.75 of 5 stars 3.75  ·  rating details  ·  221 ratings  ·  67 reviews
A fascinating look at twelve maps—from Ancient Greece to Google Earth—and how they changed our world

In this masterful study, historian and cartography expert Jerry Brotton explores a dozen of history’s most influential maps, from stone tablet to vibrant computer screen. Starting with Ptolemy, �father of modern geography,” and ending with satellite cartography, A History o...more
Hardcover, 544 pages
Published November 14th 2013 by Viking Adult (first published January 1st 2012)
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Ben Babcock
Maps are sexy. They are rich founts of information in text and picture form: layers of semantics crowded on rectangles or squares of paper, pixels of possibility on a 3D representation of the world. They are an essential form of communication, but they are often overlooked. Let’s face it: we take maps for granted. This is especially true now that Google and other companies have made it easy to explore the Earth virtually. As these tools become commonplace, the technology fades into the backgroun...more
Susanna - Censored by GoodReads
A fascinating study of the history of maps, and of the concerns of the map-makers.

For a further review: http://susannag.booklikes.com/post/73...

Thanks to Net Galley for the ARC.
Wow, I'm actually pretty impressed with myself for finishing this book. It certainly took a while. This isn't a reflection on the book's quality, more so it's style, since this is very much a textbook, massive massive textbook. As oppose to a lighter armchair historian/cartographer volumes like for instance Ken Jennings' lovely book on maps. This book is dense, crammed with information, at times overwhelmingly so. Then again is there really such a thing as too informative. There is so much here...more
From the first known world map engraved on a cuneiform clay tablet to Google Earth's interactive three-dimensional image of the world, History of the World in Twelve Maps is a wonderful introduction to the history of cartography. As the title suggests, Jerry Brotton picked twelve maps and placed them in their historical context, dedicating one chapter to each map. At first sight, his choice may seem arbitrary enough - why pick the Hereford map and not the Ebstorf map, or Pietro Vesconte's map, o...more
This is not so much a history of the world in twelve maps as the stories of twelve maps and their places in history. The author's main premise is that maps are inherently subjective and are influenced by the culture that produces them and its motivations for that production.

The premise is elegantly explored through twelve chapters, each with a single word title describing the main influence on the map's production. Thus we see medieval mappae mundi that set out to describe the world with refere...more
This is a very good book. It could potentially have been better titled as "A history of twelve world maps" or something like that, but I guess the current title works. The premise of the book is that a map of the world is a rich statement that speaks about places on the globe but also about the political, cultural, religious, and technological age in which it was developed. That means that world maps (and really all maps) are evidence of the times in which they are created, provided one takes th...more
Mark Field
Ok ... I seriously geeked out on this book! I do have a fascination for maps and geography, so i did relish this book. I guess this is in many ways the author's history choosing the maps that most interested him and putting them into their respective historical, political and religious context that defined their creation. To me part of this fascination with maps has to do with their sense of discovery, and of trying to make sense of our place and the definition they bring, these too are the defi...more
Aug 03, 2014 Silvia added it
Nonostante la traduzione italiana a volte affannosa, conserva dell'originale la narrazione di grande respiro, ricchissima di informazioni ma sempre di piacevole lettura.
La materia estremamente vasta costringe l'autore ad alcune scelte: si potra' forse obiettare che, eccetto il capitolo dedicato alla cultura coreana e cinese, resta un libro fortemente eurocentrico, ma del resto la cartografia moderna e' nata in Europa, pur con l'apporto di varie tradizioni. Forse ancora insufficiente e' lo spazio...more
Brotton compresses remarkable insights into brief essays on cartography, history, and philosophy teased from the analysis of his twelve subjects. "Maps offer a proposal about the world, rather than just a reflection of it, and every proposal emerges from a particular culture's prevailing assumptions and preoccupations. The relationship between a map and these assumptions and preoccupations is always reciprocal, but not necessarily fixed or stable...Each one is not just about the world, but also...more
Mike Edwards
Generally speaking a very interesting book. A ton of information, most of which I was unfamiliar with previously, and presented in a way that nicely built upon itself. Note that despite the title, it's more a history of map-making as opposed to a history of the world through the lens of map making. Still, don't let that turn you off; maps are an integral part of how we interpret the world around us. In that sense, the book is really a story of how that interpretation has evolved over time.

Al Bità
This rather clever work is a must for those interested in Cartography on a global, panoramic scale. In twelve chapters, Brotton presents and discusses twelve “takes” based on “maps” of the time, starting from the earliest attempts at geography, and ending with Google Earth. All except one (the Kangnido World Map at Chapter 4, which deals with the East) all the other maps are Western in perspective — somewhat understandably, since the cartography of the whole globe seemed to be a major concern of...more
Dana Stabenow
I wish some mention had been made of Marcus Agrippa's map, made of stone and in the Roman Forum for all to see from 5 A.D. on, but otherwise an exhaustive (and on occasion exhausting) examination of how map makers created physical representations of the world we live in, many with kings and popes looking over their shoulders, which could and did affect what was shown to be at the center of the world and where the borders went (see page 375, one of many propaganda maps made by Nazi Germany). A bo...more
Aug 28, 2014 Emily marked it as to-read-maybe
Shelves: world-history
Great reasons to read this: http://the-toast.net/2014/04/22/two-m...
A revealing and new look at history. The author looks at the evolution of mapmaking, and how it impacts and is impacted by government, economics, religion, technology, etc. The book starts with Ptolemy and the amazing strides he made in the mathematics of map making, ideas that were seen as central to cartography for over a thousand years. As is turns out early maps were not for the purpose of traveling or navigation, but rather to communicate or celebrate ideas about religion, consolidate infor...more
Long but fascinating look at the history of cartography. The book starts by looking at the Greco-Roman tradition with Ptolemy and moves chronologically until ending with a discussion of contemporary geospatial applications with Google Maps. To me, the book loses steam as it goes on. The best chapters were those in the first half looking at the earliest maps and also those coming out of other traditions (there's a chapter on early Islamic mapping and another on the Medieval Asian mapping traditio...more
Lisa Cobb Sabatini
I won A History of the World in 12 Maps by Jerry Brotton from Goodreads. From mapmakers manipulating maps to meet the desires of their religious or political leaders to a single mapmaker whose personal belief in a "geopolitical heartland" influencing international relations to multitudes of individuals creating their own purposes, this is a book about the world's influence on mapmakers and mapmakers impact on the world.
I don't believe that this book is written for casual readers like me. Having...more
Reviewed first published on my blog: http://memoriesfrombooks.blogspot.com...

A History of the World in 12 Maps starts with Ptolemy's Geography dated from the second century and ends with the current version of Google Earth. The other maps included in the 12 are:

- 1100s - the maps of Muhammad al-Idrisi created for the king of Sicily
- Circa 1300 - the Mappamundi created in Italy
- 1402 - Kangnido world map from Japan, one of the oldest surviving maps of East Asia
- 1507 - German cartographer Martin...more
Boris Limpopo
Brotton, Jerry (2012). A History of the World in Twelve Maps. London: Penguin. 2012. ISBN 9781846145704. Pagine 492. 23,04 €
A History of the World in Twelve Maps


Jerry Brotton è un giornalista dalla BBC e il libro (se capisco bene) è figlio di una serie televisiva, Maps: Power, Plunder and Possession.

Il libro mantiene esattamente quello che promette: i suoi dodici capitoli illustrano ciascuno una tappa nella storia della cartografia e un problema nella rappresentazione dello spazio (...more
In lots of ways this is a fascinating book, picking up on the trend to look at a historical subject in the context of a single item or area. It was first started by the book A History of the World in 100 Objects.

There are lots of images of ancient maps, the detail and depth that the book goes into are impressive, and the credentials of the author are impeccable. And yet it doesn’t work for me. There is a mass of detail in here, from some of the very first maps by Ptolemy and other significant o...more
Denis Vukosav
"A History of the World in 12 Maps" by Jerry Brotton is an unusual and successful experiment to tell the history of the world through 12 maps throughout human past and present.

Inside his interesting book Brotton brought and describe twelve maps from Ptolemy's Geography made in year 150 until Google Earth map from year 2012, together with ten other maps which were drawn in the meantime.

These other 10 maps are:
- year 1154 - Muhammad Al-Idrisi maps created for the King of Sicily
- year 1300 - The Ma...more
I'm really not sure what to make of this book - I've just finished it and I feel like I have information overload. On the one hand, it's certainly informative, there's facts abundle. On the other though, Brotton seems to have largely failed to write a history of the world in 12 maps, instead writing something more like 'a history of maps in 12 maps'. I shall explain.

Good points: I adore the 'history of the world in x things' format, ever since I fell in love with the BBC radio 4 series (and acco...more
This book looks at12 maps, as the title suggests, and links each map to a particular aspect of history. This is an interesting format which works well for maps. I did find the book difficult to get into - the introduction and the first chapter, Science, were quite dense and full of academic language - but later chapters such as Faith and Nation were fascinating.

Brotton himself identifies the problem that historians don't really relate to the science of geography, and that was the biggest issue f...more
Margaret Sankey
Good popular geography highlighting twelve maps which changed the conception of the known world, or which illustrate the way in which the mapmakers located themselves and their people in the world. Brotton makes sure to make this a global survey, with the Korean Kangnido World Map of 1402 and al-Idrisi's friendship with Roger II of Sicily resulting in the Book of Roger. Good work for generalists, with explanations of cartography and techniques.
Zeb Kantrowitz
Of the twelve maps included in this book, it's the last three that I found the most relevant, especially the last (which was the Google Map).
With the creation of the GPS network and the ability to find almost anyplace on earth, we are now able to know where on the planet we are at any time.

It won't be long before people get used to wearing a watch, pendent, ring or some such device that can be used as a locator. Though it sounds very 1984ish it will mean that children, the mentally afflicted and...more
Classic dense history book. It was fairly entertaining, although Brotton doesn't really understand technology enough to comment on Google maps.

There's an interesting split between the amount of history of the world, and history of maps. It's definitely more on the latter side, but does provide a very interesting look at how mapmaking is a reflection on both the culture and technology of the time.
Eric Eisberg
This is a fascinating look at how cartography evolved with the culture of the age. From the first world map on Babylonian stone tablet to Google Earth, Brotton keeps the subject matter compelling and shows how each map reflected the spirit of its times. Highly recommended.
Como ya he leído por aquí, el libro debería llamarse "Historia de la cartografía en doce mapas", porque eso es lo que realmente cuenta. Por mi parte, era lo que estaba buscando, pero alguien que quisiese una historia mundial se tiene que haber sentido defraudado.
Si bien hay partes que resultan técnicas en exceso, los doce mapas y doce capítulos están muy bien escogidos e ilustran de manera muy acertada la evolución de la cartografía a lo largo de la historia.
Para un amante de los mapas no expert...more
Excellent, but maybe not for everyone. It's very detailed and technical, with a lot of math and geometry. However, it is a great review of the difficulties of map making, which I think we take for granted now.
The other John
Dec 13, 2013 The other John rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to The other John by: Unshelved Book Club
I love maps, and don't mind wasting time poring over one. However, I've never given much thought about them--how they're made, why they're made, and all that. So this book ended up being a nice little voyage of discovery for me. As a combination of history and maps, it seemed natural to put it on my reading list. Like Tom Standage's A History of the World in 6 Glasses, Professor Brotton's book takes a single concept, in this case maps of the world, and follows it through history. For each map, h...more
Mostly excellent with a few dry patches, this work teaches an excellent course on the history of cartography by examining some of the important maps throughout history and showing how they are products of their time and the worldviews that spawned them as well as the cartographic methods and breakthroughs that each represents. Excellent for even the casual map geek.
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