Posted: Feb 05, 2022 1:53 pm
by don't get me started
1. Cognitive Discourse Analysis: An introduction - Thora Tenbrink
2. Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything About Race, Gender And Identity- And Why This Harms Everybody – Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay

3. A History of the World in 12 Maps – Jerry Brotton

514 pp.

An absolute treat for anyone interested in history and maps. The depth scholarship on show is impressive, but Brotton is a fluid and compelling writer so it didn’t feel heavy or overly academic.

I can hardly do justice here in to the many and varied insights that the author gives to the history of human endeavor in trying to represent the world in diagrammatic form. Among the highlights was the background on Ptolemy’s world view and map that so dominated the western outlook for centuries. Similarly, the Hereford Mapamundi is given full treatment and the practical as well as theological basis of its design are well described. (East at the top- garden of Eden, west at the bottom, the setting sun and the end of times… )
Brotton does not just focus on the Western tradition. The chapter on the Islamic map maker and scholar al Idrisi who worked in Sicily under the Norman king Roger II was an interesting take on the ways that Christians and Moslems often worked and lived together in peaceful ways. I was introduced to the term ‘convivencia’ which was the Spanish term for the ‘peaceful coexistence of Catholics, Moslems and Jews under one rule’. (p.54).

There was also a full background to the work of Mercator and the thinking behind his famous projection. (Not, as was later claimed by some later commentators, a deliberate attempt to exaggerate Europe at the expense of the tropics, but a mathematically driven enterprise to project a spherical surface onto a flat plane in such a way that the compass bearings between any two points would be accurate.)

Up until now I had only known the name Cassini from the NASA space probe but here was a thorough introduction to the dynasty of mapmakers and mathematicians that set about creating an accurate topographic, triangulated map of France in the years preceding the revolution…

The book comes right up to date with a chapter on Google Earth and modern geospatial reckoning.

I’ll leave off with a quote from the chapter on the Cassini project that I though summed up a key element of Enlightenment thinking.

[Colbert] supported scholarship, and did so not only because of his natural inclinations, but for sound political reasons. He knew that the sciences and the arts suffice to make reign glorious; that they spread the language of a nations perhaps even more so than do conquests; that they give the reign a control over knowledge and industry which is just as prestigious and useful; that they attract to the country a multitude of foreigners who enrich it by their talents. (p.299)

A grand read (even with the rather small font size…)