Cover image for Trading territories : mapping the early modern world
Trading territories : mapping the early modern world
Brotton, Jerry.
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Ithaca, N.Y. : Cornell University Press, 1998.

Physical Description:
208 pages : illustrations (some color), maps (some color) ; 25 cm
General Note:
Originally published: London : Reaktion Books, 1997.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
GA201 .B75 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



In this generously illustrated book, Jerry Brotton documents the dramatic changes in the nature of geographical representation which took place during the sixteenth century, explaining how much they convey about the transformation of European culture at the end of the early modern era. He examines the age's fascination with maps, charts, and globes as both texts and artifacts that provided their owners with a promise of gain, be it intellectual, political, or financial. From the Middle Ages through most of the sixteenth century, Brotton argues, mapmakers deliberately exploited the partial, often conflicting accounts of geographically distant territories to create imaginary worlds. As long as the lands remained inaccessible, these maps and globes were politically compelling. They bolstered the authority of the imperial patrons who employed the geographers and integrated their creations into ever more grandiose rhetorics of expansion. As the century progressed, however, geographers increasingly owed allegiance to the administrators of vast joint-stock companies that sought to exploit faraway lands and required the systematic mapping of commercially strategic territories. By the beginning of the seventeenth century, maps had begun to serve instead as scientific guides, defining objectively valid images of the world.

Author Notes

Jerry Brotton is Research Fellow, School of English at the University of Leeds

Reviews 2

Booklist Review

Brotton clearly shows the commercial and political pressures that made mapmaking so important during the 1600s; and he shows the geographical, logistic, and printing limitations that made mapmaking difficult and haphazard. He corrects many common historical omissions and false notions: he grants Arabs, Muslims, Asians, and Ottomans their rightful place in preserving and furthering the art of mapmaking, and he argues convincingly that Ottomans and Europeans got along more peacefully than usually portrayed. The book's academic style and long paragraphs present a challenge, but the commonsense arguments are easy to follow. Tales of politics, personal ambition, and exploration, and a touch of humor, also keep the book interesting. The book excellently tells the story of mapmakers' progressing from servants whose maps distorted kings' territories to independent scholars whose maps' political neutrality and geographical accuracy were rewarded by private companies. The illustrations show maps developing from ancient geographers' fantastical notions to increasingly sophisticated and accurate documents. Map buffs and those interested in early world exploration should enjoy this one. --Kevin Grandfield

Choice Review

Brotton (Univ. of Leeds) successfully examines the function and role of chart, map, and globe from the Middle Ages to the 16th century. He explains the shift of locus from the Ptolemaic conception of world-centered oil on the eastern Mediterranean to one dominated conceptually by the East. This shift of focus from one global area to the other was inspired in part by a shift in focus from scholarship to profit, as joint-stock companies were emerging. The map could no longer be inspired by the imagination, but now was required to be objective and as accurate as possible, revealing what was commercially significant. Themes such as "The cartography of the Early Portuguese Discoveries," "The Geography of the Ottoman Empire," "Mapping the Moluccas," and "The Geography of Mercator and Ortelius" dominate the narrative. The 52 illustrations (nine in color) display some of the world's cartographic treasures. Abundant references conclude this well-produced book. All levels. G. J. Martin emeritus, Southern Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgementsp. 7
1 Introductionp. 17
2 An Empire Built on Water: The Cartography of the Early Portuguese Discoveriesp. 46
3 Disorienting the East: The Geography of the Ottoman Empirep. 87
4 Cunning Cosmographers: Mapping the Moluccasp. 119
5 Plotting and Projecting: The Geography of Mercator and Orteliusp. 151
6 Conclusionp. 180
Referencesp. 187
Bibliographyp. 197
Indexp. 203