The Power of Projections
How Maps Reflect Global Politics and History
by Arthur Jay Klinghoffer
April 2006, 208pp, 6 1/8x9 1/4
1 volume, Praeger

Hardcover: 978-0-275-99135-7
$55, £41, 48€, A75
eBook Available: 978-0-313-08251-1
Please contact your preferred eBook vendor for pricing.

Shows how maps are not dispassionately created scientific instruments, but reflections of their creators, as well as of specific time periods, locations, and status. We look to maps to tell us about geography; instead, maps tell us more about ourselves than we might have imagined.

Why is Europe at the top half of maps and Africa at the bottom? Although we are accustomed to that convention, it is, in fact, a politically motivated, almost entirely subjective way of depicting a ball spinning in space. As The Power of Projections teaches us, maps do not portray reality, only interpretations of it. To begin with, they are two-dimensional projections of a three-dimensional, spherical Earth. Add to that the fact that every map is made for a purpose and its design tends to reflect that purpose. Finally, a map is often a psychological projection of the historical, political, and cultural values of the cartographer—or of the nation, person or organization for which the map was created.
In this fascinating book, Klinghoffer examines the world perceptions of various civilizations and the ways in which maps have been formulated to serve the agendas of cartographers and their patrons. He analyzes the recent decline of sovereignty, the spread of globalization, the reassertion of ethnic identity, and how these trends affect contemporary mapmaking.


"The Earth is spherical: to represent it accurately on a flat surface, e.g., a piece of paper, is not mathematically possible. Approximations via projections are, however, legion. Klinghoffer provides readers with a global survey of cartographic practice established over several centuries, revealing that choice of markers is arbitrary. Parallels of latitude, meridians of longitude, location of the prime meridian, the fact that mapmakers now place north to the top of the map--all owe to cultural choice. All maps are made for a reason. Maps of politicians, salespeople, warmongers, and peacemakers are invariably designed for a cause--buyer, beware! Yet the aphorism one map is worth ten thousand words has so often proved true. Klinghoffer provides innumerable examples of an interdisciplinary nature in this book, revealing the way in which maps and their projections both reflect and determine human destinies. Endnotes and index are especially helpful adjuncts to an interesting book that will hold appeal for an extended readership. Recommended. All levels/libraries."—Choice, November 1, 2006

"In cartography, projection is the technique of representing the curved surface of the earth on a two-dimensional map; in political science, the projection of power is a polite way of saying military bullying. Klinghoffer finds that the two are not that different, and shows how the manner of making maps through the ages have reflected the political philosophies and aspirations of those who commissioned and used them."—Reference & Research Book News, February 1, 2007

"Crowded with interesting examples of geographical names as objects of political contention. Klinghoffer's work is worth a look."—Booklist, July 1, 2006

"[E]xamines how different cultures view the world through the study of maps."—Courier-Post (Cherry Hill, New Jersey), June 15, 2006

"With the authority of an acclaimed scholar and the passion of a true map enthusiast, Arthur Jay Klinghoffer proves the perfect guide for this exploration of the tangled and often dangerous borderlands between cartography and political science. Accessible and intellectually engaging, The Power of Projections is an excellent addition to the cartographic canon."—Miles Harvey, author of The, Island of Lost Maps: A True Story of Cartographic Crime

"Demonstrates how maps have acted as instruments of power in the hands of 'the West,' reflecting and shaping world-views. A closing study of recent controversies over global map projections and the ways that a critical understanding of maps and mapping can reframe views of current world conflicts makes the history directly relevant to our everyday lives."—Denis Cosgrove, Professor of Geography, UCLA, author of Apollo's Eye: A Cartographic Genealogy of the Earth in the Western Imagination

"Arthur Klinghoffer has written a brisk survey of global cartographic practice, highlighting the latest research from around the world in a distinctive synthetic framework. This book offers a useful entry point into an exciting literature with broad interdisciplinary implications."—Karen Wigen, Associate Professor of History, Stanford University, co-author of The Myth of Continents

"Professor Klinghoffer's entertaining book punctures the 'myth of cartographic objectivity' and challenges us to rethink our vision of the world. Arresting examples from the history of international relations, including the use of maps in the Arab-Israeli conflict and the definition of the Western Hemisphere in relation to the Monroe Doctrine and U.S. entry into World War II, show how maps have been used (and misused) as the partisan tools of policy-makers."—Evelyn Edson, Professor of History, Piedmont Virginia Community College, author of Mapping Time and Space: How Medieval Mapmakers Viewed Their World, co-author of Medieval Views of the Cosmos: Picturing the Universe in the Christian and Islamic Middle Ages
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