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The Authority of Representation: A Single Map for All Countries, 1891–1939

The Authority of Representation: A Single Map for All Countries, 1891–1939

Chapter:
(p.23) Chapter One The Authority of Representation: A Single Map for All Countries, 1891–1939
Source:
After the Map
Author(s):
William Rankin
Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226339535.003.0001

The International Map of the World – the IMW – was a hugely ambitious project to create a uniform atlas of the world in unprecedented detail. It was first proposed in 1891 by the German geographer Albrecht Penck, and by 1913 its specifications carried the force of international treaty, with almost every country in the world agreeing to participate. It remained a going concern for nearly a century, and hundreds of map sheets were eventually published. This chapter traces the history of the IMW before World War II and shows how a scientific project became entwined with international politics and took on a dual authority, where representation was both graphical and political at once. It also discusses the involvement of organizations like the Royal Geographical Society, the American Geographical Society, and the International Commission for Air Navigation and analyzes the slippages of the project as a window in to the larger tensions of cartography, sovereignty, and “civilization.”

Keywords:   International Map of the World, Albrecht Penck, Royal Geographical Society, American Geographical Society, International Commission for Air Navigation, cartography, representation, sovereignty, civilization

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