A map can translate data into visual form and give it meaning. These “thematic” or “weighted” maps are used to identify particular types of information or relationships. By contrast, traditional maps typically represent locations, waterways, topography, and borders without emphasizing any one aspect in particular. Thematic mapping dates back to the 1830s when Europeans began compiling maps of crime, disease, and temperature. This technique was soon adopted by American elites, not only as way-finding or location aids, but also as tools of spatial analysis, inquiry, administration, and control. This book explores the use of maps by Americans to understand their past and the extent to which national identity was predicated on geographical knowledge. Focusing on historical mapping from the early nineteenth to the early twentieth centuries, it considers the development of climate and weather maps to study the behavior of storms and the nature of disease. It also looks at maps depicting the density of slavery and the use of cartography as a tool of governance.
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