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Part I - The Empire, the German Lands, and Their Peoples

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  05 June 2012

Thomas A. Brady Jr.
Affiliation:
University of California, Berkeley
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Summary

Topography displays no favourites; North's as near as West. More delicate than the historians' are the map-makers' colours.

Elizabeth Bishop

If statistics lie with numbers, maps lie with spaces. Their prevarications consist not chiefly in the simplifications required to represent visually physical features, places, and countries in a tiny space, in two dimensions, and in a few colors, for such distortions arise from the inherent limitations on the cartographical representation of geographical and historical realities. Mapmakers do the best they can. The problem lies rather with those makers of national myths who declare polities of distant ages to have been embryonic forms of modern nation-states, and who require maps to support their claims. Consider a map of Latin Christendom in 1400. The map's western tier is after a fashion recognizable today: Scotland and England sit in their places; France lies in the right place, though it is too small; and Iberia presents a recognizable constellation of kingdoms. Eastward, Bohemia, if stripped of its satellite lands, is very nearly the shape of the modern Czech Republic, while a willing eye might see the modern Hungarian Republic in the much truncated form of the old Hungarian kingdom and the Polish Republic as an enlarged, if considerably displaced, version of the old Polish kingdom. The rest is unfamiliar. Only the physical features of mountain, river, and sea enable us to identify Scandinavia, Ireland, and, with a heavier dose of imagination, Italy, that quintessential “geographical expression.

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Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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