DRAWING THE LINE by Mark Monmonier

DRAWING THE LINE

Tales of Maps and Cartocontroversy

KIRKUS REVIEW

 An intriguing dissection of how maps, with their pictorial clarity and aura of scientific objectivity, have exerted the power to persuade--and often mislead. Maps have a deceptively simple appearance, partly because the need for readablitiy requires cartographers to limit content, partly because mapmakers may be reflecting their own biases, according to Monmonier (Geography/Syracuse Univ.; How to Lie With Maps, not reviewed, etc.). He begins by recounting how the West German Arno Peters won worldwide media attention in the 1980s by criticizing the commonly used Mercator projection as Eurocentric- -and then proposed a revision that distorted lands to reflect his own leftist views. The story of the 1965 ``Vinland'' map, which purported to prove that Leif Ericson had discovered America several centuries before Columbus, becomes a tale of ethnic sensitivities (Italian-Americans were pressing then to have Columbus Day made a national holiday) and the hoodwinking of a highbrow institution (Yale accepted the map and was embarrassed by the 1974 revelation that it was a fraud). Monmonier equally displays an eye for the pungent detail (e.g., some US maps still feature ethnically insensitive place names such as Chinks Peak and Squaw Tits) and the ability to paint a broad historical context, as in detailing how one British geographer's warning about the importance of controlling ``the Heartland'' of Eastern Europe was ignored by his countrymen, until the Nazi-Soviet Pact proved him right. He also examines how maps have been used to settle boundary disputes between nations and neighbors; to redraw electoral districts to save incumbents' seats or gain power for minorities; to help bureaucrats convince a town to accept an incinerator, landfill, or nuclear waste dump; and, conversely, to protect against environmental catastrophes. A revealing analysis that shows how maps sometimes deserve a place in the unholy triumvirate of lies, damned lies, and statistics. (30 b&w drawings and 15 half-tones)

Pub Date: Dec. 20th, 1994
ISBN: 0-8050-2581-2
Page count: 352pp
Publisher: Henry Holt
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1994




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