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A Cartographic History

The first general history of Korea as seen through maps, Korea: A Cartographic History provides a beautifully illustrated introduction to how Korea was and is represented cartographically. John Rennie Short, one of today’s most prolific and well-respected geographers, encapsulates six hundred years of maps made by Koreans and non-Koreans alike.
Largely chronological in its organization, Korea begins by examining the differing cartographic traditions prevalent in the early Joseon period in Korea—roughly 1400 to 1600—and its temporal equivalent in early modern Europe. As one of the longest continuous dynasties, Joseon rule encompassed an enormous range and depth of cartographic production. Short then surveys the cartographic encounters from 1600 to 1900, distinguishing between the early and late Joseon periods and highlighting the influences of China, Japan, and the rest of the world on Korean cartography. In his final section, Short covers the period from Japanese colonial control of Korea to the present day and demonstrates how some of the tumultuous events of the past hundred years are recorded and contested in maps. He also explores recent cartographic controversies, including the naming of the East Sea/Sea of Japan and claims of ownership of the island of Dokdo.
A common theme running throughout Short’s study is how the global flow of knowledge and ideas affects mapmaking, and Short reveals how Korean mapmakers throughout history have embodied, reflected, and even contested these foreign depictions of their homeland.  

See sample pages (PDF format).

160 pages | 71 color plates | 7 x 10 | © 2012

Geography: Cartography, Cultural and Historical Geography

History: Asian History


“Short gives a good review of Korean history as well as the history of European expansion. . . . Recommended.”

E. Edson, Piedmont Virginia Community College | Choice

“A comprehensive and highly interesting examination of Korea through maps. . . . Korea is a pleasure to read, a fully satisfying and rich foray into a fascinating country as seen, by itself and by others, through maps. The archival work, methodological elegance, and convincing argumentation and writing create a scintillating exploration of and guidebook to all things cartographically related to a place that has sometimes been relegated to ‘wedge’ position between great powers (China and Japan, or communism and capitalism, as the case may be). Seventy-one full-colour plates are interspersed throughout the text, and it feels as though every other page has a treasure waiting behind it. This book is a beautiful production by the University of Chicago Press. . . . A superb introduction to a fine author from whom we can only hope much more of the same is to come.”

Gwilym Eades, Royal Holloway, University of London | Cartographica

“[A] very accessible and well-written general history of Korea and its role in the history of cartography. . . . [W]ritten very much for a general audience, . . . [Korea] isbeautifully illustrated with many pictures of old Korean maps, European maps of Korea and recent examples of maps of Korea.”—Korea Times

Korea Times

“A colorful and nicely printed general history of the representation of the Korean peninsula in maps.”

Michael E. Robinson, Indiana University, Bloomington | Journal of Asian Studies

“There are more than a few Korean books of the country’s cartographic history, but Korea: A Cartographic History separates itself from others in that it reviews how Korea was incorporated in Western maps, as well as how Korea, East Asia, and the West were represented in and through Korean maps. John Rennie Short, a prolific writer in the areas of geography and urban studies, has also published several books on the history of cartography, the politics of mapmaking, and European maps. He is one of the very few who are qualified to compare European maps to Korean ones in terms of their worldview, geographic knowledge of other territories as well as their own, and uses and purposes of mapmaking. Undoubtedly, this book fills the gap in the current literature on the development of the history of cartography. It also makes a significant contribution to the historical studies of Joseon and colonial Korea, as Korean cartographic representations of and encounters with outside influences would add a new dimension to the existing understanding of the Korean people’s relations with others.”

Yeong-Hyun Kim, Ohio University

“John Rennie Short has written a superb review of the cartographic history of Korea. The text is clear and the illustrations fascinating. The story of the interweaving of Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and European science is engaging and opens to the nonspecialist a vista of the fascinating interplay of politics, trade, science, and landscape. The masterful overview is punctuated by very detailed analysis of several key maps. The concluding chapter on cartographic controversies brings the story into the postmodernist debates on place making and critical geopolitics. The book is a must-have for all lovers of maps and students of China, Korea, and Japan.”

David A. Lanegran, Macalester College

“Both a history of cartography and a cartographic history, John Rennie Short’s highly readable and beautifully illustrated book recounts the absorbing story of Korea’s integration into global space with accuracy and aplomb.”

Laura Hostetler, University of Illinois at Chicago

Table of Contents


1 Introduction: The Globalization of Space


2 Early Joseon Maps

3 Europe Looks East


4 Joseon and Its Neighbors

5 Cartographies of the Late Joseon


6 The Colonial Grid

7 Representing the New Country

8 Cartroversies

Guide to Further Reading



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