Think about how you learned history in school. Did people or things tend to just teleport from one content to another without any explanation of how they got there, or why they departed or arrived by that route, or what the voyage meant to them? Certainly not all histories neglect the sea, but enough do that to make an effort to reorient the way you think about aquatic spaces can radically alter how you analyze a historic place or process that you thought you understood.
This lesson considers the representative nature of mapmaking through Gerard Mercator’s sixteenth-century world map. The lesson centers power relations in its analysis of maps and knowledge production, to demonstrate how to read the signs within maps that illustrate mapmakers’ objectives, their cultural practices, and political contexts.
What, precisely, is a map? And, more important, what work do maps do?