Floods, fires, earthquakes, volcanoes, bombings, droughts, and even alien invasions: disaster can take many forms. And, although disasters are always felt dramatically, a disaster’s form and location impacts who records its effects and what forms those records take. “Where Disaster Strikes” investigates the intertwined categories of modern space and disaster through the Harvard Map Collection’s maps of large destructive events from the London Fire to the present.
October is a busy month: I’m aware of six new map books coming out. Two deal with the mapping of war, three with the rich cartographical history of Great Britain, while the sixth is a colouring book.
Maps of War: Mapping Conflict Through the Centuries by Jeremy Black (Conway, 11 October). “There is little documented mapping of conflict prior to the Renaissance period, but, from the 17th century onward, military commanders and strategists began to document the wars in which they were involved and, later, to use mapping to actually plan the progress of a conflict. Using contemporary maps, this sumptuous new volume covers the history of the mapping of land wars, and shows the way in which maps provide a guide to the history of war.”
Art and Optics in the Hereford Map: An English Mappa Mundi, c. 1300 by Marcia Kupfer (Yale University Press, 25 October). Reinterpretation of the Hereford Mappa Mundi from an art history perspective. “Features of the colored and gilded map that baffle modern expectations are typically dismissed as the product of careless execution. Kupfer argues that they should rightly be seen as part of the map’s encoded commentary on the nature of vision itself.”
I told you about the Ordnance Survey’s Great British Colouring Map (Laurence King, 10 October) last July; it’s available this week. “Based on the accurate maps of Ordnance Survey, the colouring pages explore the coasts, towns, forests and countryside of England, Scotland and Wales. Includes detailed maps of cities and other places of interest such as Britain’s most recognizable tourist and historical locations, plus a stunning gatefold of London.”
National Geographic looks at the 20 or so amateur mapmakers producing digital maps of the Syrian civil war. Some are neutral, some are partial to one side, all are dealing with the challenges of producing accurate, up-to-date information far from the front lines.
The rise of these next-generation mapmakers comes as many news organizations around the world are reducing their commitment to foreign coverage. And reporting from conflict zones remains as dangerous as ever. According toReporters Without Borders, 50 journalists and 142 citizen journalists have been killed in Syria since 2011. The lack of on-the-ground coverage by journalists leaves an information gap that is being filled by these digitally savvy mapmakers.
The New York Times maps the impact of Russian airstrikes on the Syrian civil war. Using several maps to indicate the impact on each faction—government, rebels, ISIS and Kurds—strikes me as quite effective, as is the use of colour-highlighted text in the headings, rather than a legend, to indicate each faction.
The Syria Conflict Mapping Project (screenshot above), a project of the Carter Center, has been documenting events in the Syrian civil war since 2012 using open source information. “Using these publicly available resources, as well as regular consultations with stakeholders in the country, the Center has documented and mapped over 40,000 conflict events in Syria (including clashes, aerial bombardments, artillery shelling, etc.), the changing relations between thousands of armed groups, movements of internally displaced people, and humanitarian conditions.” [via]
I feel a little embarrassed by my constant linking to Geographical magazine’s book reviews, but they point to books, particularly British books, that I otherwise hadn’t heard of—such as Dan Smith’sState of the Middle East Atlas (New Internationalist, November 2015), the third edition of which was just published. From Laura Cole’s review: “[T]he atlas has been revised with new analyses of the region since the Arab Spring began in 2011 as well as the latest on the Israel-Palestine conflict, the refugee crisis and foreign fighters in Iraq and Syria. Smith, cartographer and director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, has kept up with the compelling changes and complicated dynamics of Middle Eastern politics.” Buy at Amazon U.K.