REVOLUTION by Richard H. Brown


Mapping the Road to American Independence, 1755–1783
Email this review


The story of the American Revolution capably told through maps.

If it can’t be measured, the engineers say, it can’t be monitored. Just so, without knowledge of where an empire begins and ends, there can be no empire: thus maps, those indispensable adjuncts of nations. Brown, vice-chairman of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, and map dealer and historian Cohen (Mapping the West: America's Westward Movement 1524-1890, 2002, etc.) chart the seven years of Revolutionary War between Britain and its North American Colonies in a series of maps and related illustrations. The earliest major piece, the “Anti-Gallican Map,” sets the stage two decades before the Revolution, when Britain and France contested over the territory. As the authors write, meaningfully, “cartography always benefits from war or even the prospect of war,” and the multicolored map from December 1755, “a masterpiece of propaganda,” made a case for the necessity of war by depicting British North America as a civilized island in an ocean of French marauders and their savage Indian allies. The war with France over, maps then looked into the interior of the continent, where land-hungry Americans longed to go but the British crown locked away. If some of the maps are aspirational, most are highly realistic (or, as the authors put it, “candid”); the map of Boston showing the disposition of British troops at the time of what would become the Battle of Bunker Hill is a marvel of economic truth-telling. The excellent supporting artwork and Brown and Cohen’s elegant text help place these works in perspective in terms of both the development of the war from Fort Duquesne to Yorktown and the rise of modern mapmaking through the persons of unwitting heroes like Col. John Montresor, “the most able British soldier who served during the French and Indian War and the American Revolution.”

Essential for students of the Revolutionary era and a pleasure for cartography buffs.

Pub Date: Oct. 25th, 2015
ISBN: 978-0-393-06032-4
Page count: 160pp
Publisher: Norton
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15th, 2015


NonfictionTHE NAME OF WAR by Jill Lepore
by Jill Lepore
NonfictionWEST OF THE REVOLUTION by Claudio Saunt
by Claudio Saunt
NonfictionWASHINGTON'S REVOLUTION by Robert Middlekauff
by Robert Middlekauff