Another geo-historical narrative

If it isn’t obvious from my atlas, I am intrigued with the idea of using maps to tell a historical narrative. I’m also a sucker for atlases (especially historical atlases) focused on the places where I travel. This week I was in Philadelphia for the NCAA Lacrosse Championships (we were rooting for Cornell and Denver, but oh well), and while we were visiting Gettysburg, I picked up the brand new book Gettysburg: The Story of the Battle with Maps. It attempts to tell the very complex spatio-temporal story of the three-day battle with maps as the primary means of communication and the text in a supporting role. While they don’t quite accomplish that goal (I still had to carefully read the text to understand what is going on), it’s about as close to success as I’ve ever seen on paper. I’m not a civil war buff, nor am I very into military history, but I feel like I finally “get” Gettysburg after having worked through this book. Two techniques I really liked were:

  • Using the exact same base map (same area, same scale) and same symbology throughout to make it easy to compare one map with another.
  • Embedding “clips” of the map in the text to clearly tie specific parts of the text to the map

An impressive piece of work!

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