Rhumb Lines and Map Wars
A Social History of the Mercator Projection
Because it distorts the proportionate size of countries, the Mercator map was criticized for inflating Europe and North America in a promotion of colonialism. In 1974, German historian Arno Peters proffered his own map, on which countries were ostensibly drawn in true proportion to one another. In the ensuing "map wars" of the 1970s and 1980s, these dueling projections vied for public support—with varying degrees of success.
Widely acclaimed for his accessible, intelligent books on maps and mapping, Monmonier here examines the uses and limitations of one of cartography's most significant innovations. With informed skepticism, he offers insightful interpretations of why well-intentioned clerics and development advocates rallied around the Peters projection, which flagrantly distorted the shape of Third World nations; why journalists covering the controversy ignored alternative world maps and other key issues; and how a few postmodern writers defended the Peters worldview with a self-serving overstatement of the power of maps. Rhumb Lines and Map Wars is vintage Monmonier: historically rich, beautifully written, and fully engaged with the issues of our time.
"This little book exhibits a rare . . . combination of elements: scholarship, readability, and usefulness. . . . Although not a textbook on map projection, the book is a handy introduction to the subject and contains as much information as the nonspecialist is likely to need."
"Geographers and cartographers once again owe Mark Monmonier their thanks....This insightful and interesting book further adds to Monmonier’s reputation as an author capable of enlightening students, technicians, professionals, and anyone who enjoys maps and mapping."