Maps That Made History

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Maps That Made History

1000 Years of World History in 100 Old Maps
  • 100 exceptional maps that put their mark on world history

This book takes you on a thousand-year world tour through a hundred exceptional old maps. From the early medieval worldview of the cleric Isidore of Seville through to a Chinese propaganda map from 2013, via a Nazi map of Warsaw planning the outlines of the Jewish ghetto. From Leiden to Ceylon, Jamaica, Philadelphia and the Sahara, and from exuberant charts of the world to local maps. Each of these maps has helped 'create' world history: they not only reflect the past but have also left their mark on it.

When maps themselves play an active role in history, it leaves us with some intriguing stories. Of course, maps have been used for centuries as a navigational tool, such as the nautical charts on animal skins that seamen used for sailing the Atlantic around 1600, or the route map for the fifth emperor of the Chinese Qing dynasty. But they have also been indispensable for major construction projects, such as the digging of the Panama Canal, and in warfare - just think of the trench maps of the First World War.

Maps make the world visible as a whole. Contemporaries used them to learn about newly 'discovered' areas, major events and social developments. For modern readers, maps are sometimes the only remaining witness testimony to the past.

The line between fact and fiction can become blurred attimes: this book includes an imaginative rendering of the Earth's interior from 1695 and colourful maps of the mythical islands of California and Atlantis. There are also maps that were deliberately manipulative, from Western colonial creations to the state propaganda of North Korean leader Kim Il Sung.

In Maps That Made History, an international team of historians tell a hundred fascinating stories about remarkable maps from the renowned collections of Leiden University Libraries. These include gems of exceptional aesthetic value and curiosities that are now being shown to the general public for the first time. Together, they make this book a visual feast: a unique look at the past, and one that you will come back to time and again in the future.


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