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Map Projections


World History. Ms. Patricia Cutaia. White Plains H. S. White Plains, NY. Medieval European T-O Map. ... Miller World Map Centered Along 90th West Meridian. ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Map Projections

Map Projections Their Effects on Perceptions
in the Study of World History
Ms. Patricia Cutaia White Plains H. S. White
Plains, NY
Medieval European T-O Map. In medieval Europe one
of the most common forms of rendering the earth
was the mappae mundi of which more than a
thousand have survived. The T-O map is one kind
of mappae mundi. The T-O image reproduced here
comes from the encyclopedia of knowledge produced
by Isidore, Bishop of Seville, in 630 A.D., and
was printed in Augsburg in 1472.
The Maya Cosmos. Adopted with modifications from
Linda Schele and David Freidel, A Forest of
Kings The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya
(N.Y. William Morrow, 1990), p. 67, fig. 21.
Drawing by Linda Schele, courtesy Foundation for
the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc.
(permissions Nov. 7, 2002).
An ancient map that strongly suggests Chinese
sailors were first to round the world. It seems
more likely that the world and all its continents
were discovered by a Chinese admiral named Zheng
He, whose fleets roamed the oceans between 1405
and 1435. His exploits, which are well documented
in Chinese historical records, were written about
in a book which appeared in China around 1418
called "The Marvellous Visions of the Star Raft".
One of Zheng He's fleet's adventures, blown off
course to the east to the New World, provides a
fascinating thread in Neil Stephenson's fabulous
fiction, Cryptonomicon. It is a copy, made in
1763, of a map, dated 1418, which contains notes
that substantially match the descriptions in the
book . Each fleet would have at least one
"Treasure ship", used by the commander of the
fleet and his deputies (nine-masted, about 120
meters (400 ft) long and 50 m (160 ft) wide).
The greatest "inventor" of sixteenth century
Europe was map maker Gerhardus Mercator whose
1569 summary map, publicized by the learned
Richard Hakluyt in his Principal Navigations,
Voyages and Discoveries of the English Nation
(London 1589), liberated cartography from
dependence on Ptolemy, and included a projection
that allowed navigators to understand the coasts
of the New World. These maps silently promoted a
Eurocentric view that privileged the Western
image. Generations of European and American
students have been indoctrinated with the glories
of nationalism and colonialism through this map.
A modern modification of the Mercator projection
is Miller's cylindrical projection that decreases
the amount of distortion in the high latitudes
while setting the earth's surface on a
rectangular grid. If the map is cut to place the
center along the Prime Meridian, the result is a
Eurocentric map useful for many purposes but not
the only way to view the world.
Miller World Map Centered Along 90th West
Meridian . It projects an American perspective on
the world. Note how the three major countries of
North America, the United States, Canada, and
Mexico, face both the Atlantic and Pacific
oceans, while in South America only Colombia has
a two-ocean perspective. Obviously, the two
oceans have affected the history of North America
more than South America, where Chile and Peru are
Pacific-oriented countries while Brazil is an
Atlantic-oriented nation. The Arctic circle is
mostly filled with land, with only a sea gap
between Scandinavia and Iceland. Certainly
Norsemen and Vikings would note this feature.
When viewing this map it is easy to see that the
location of South America is to the east of North
  • World historians and geographers of the future
    should note the relationship between climate and
    geography, since the relationship has historical
    effects such as El Niño floods that destroyed
    ancient Peru or the Little Ice Age (14501850 AD)
    that led to the decline of the Viking colonies in
    the Atlantic.
  • Geographical properties, such as winds and
    currents, are also part of the story that
    resulted in the transoceanic arena known as the
    Atlantic World of colonial times. There are two
    traffic ways to the Americas, both made possible
    by gigantic wind wheels known as the westerlies
    in the temperate zones and the trade winds in the
  • One pattern, followed mostly by the English,
    French, and Dutch, led to the northerly America
    of foggy seas and punishing winters.
  • The other, pursued by Spaniards and Portuguese
    (and eventually some northern Europeans) reached
    the deceptively paradisaical America of warm
    climates with, however, the dangers of diseases
    and storms.
  • European America was, to use D. W. Meinig's
    words, the "geographical emanation from these two
    earliest oceanic axes."

If one rearranges the map to show a Brazilian
perspective, it becomes obvious that Brazil has
no frontage on the Pacific Ocean, is bordered in
the west by the Andes, and is strictly an
Atlantic Basin country. The equator intersects
Brazil at the Amazon and Africa between Nigeria
and Angola, with Brazil being closer in nautical
miles to Europe and Africa than most of North
America. With seventy percent of Brazil's 172.8
million people clustered near the Atlantic coast,
it is no wonder that it has been more influenced
by Europe (e.g., the national language is
Portuguese) and Africa (a multiracial population
in which African influences dominate music and
religion) than North America. Again, the bulk of
African slaves imported into the New World in the
eighteenth century went to Brazil, a feature of
the relative closeness of the equatorial region
of Brazil to a similar climatic zone in Angola
and West Africa.
  • Seventeenth Century Atlantic Basin. Lines
    indicate direction of movement of goods from
    Europe and Africa to the Americas and from the
    Americas to Asia. Europe was the source of
    financial and commercial activity, while Africa
    was primarily important for the slave tradeso
    that the main cultural impacts were those of
    Europe upon Africa, and Africa upon America. This
    was the transoceanic arena in which an Atlantic
    World emerged in the Age of Empire, and the
    geographical stage for cross-cultural encounters,
    Spanish treasure fleets, a transatlantic slave
    trade, and the movement of European peoples.
  • Adopted with permission from D.W. Meining, The
    Shaping of America A Geographical Perspective on
    500 Years of History. Volume 1, Atlantic America,
    14921800 (Yale University Press, 1986), p. 56

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North America appears to be more involved in the
Pacific Basin than South America (its eastward
location pulling it toward the Atlantic).
Finally, this map reveals a major truth about the
earth, and that is that the earth is mostly water
not land, the Pacific Ocean amounting to
64,000,000 square miles (over twice the size of
the Atlantic Ocean).
Miller World Map Centered on 180 Meridian The
Pacific Perspective. South is at top of map.
After 1850, a Pacific perspective must be added.
With the United States acquiring Alaska, the
Aleutian Islands, and Hawaii (and taking
possession of the Philippines), followed by Pearl
Harbor and the Pacific theater of World War II,
the strategic importance of the Pacific for the
United States becomes obvious. With China
emerging as a major power, the twenty-first
century may become the Pacific century.
Robinson Projection
  • This projection was presented by Arthur H.
    Robinson in 1963, and is also called the
    Orthophanic projection, which means right
  • Scale is true along the 38º parallels and is
    constant along any parallel or between any pair
    of parallels equidistant from the Equator. It is
    not free of distortion at any point, but
    distortion is very low within about 45º of the
    center and along the Equator.
  • This projection is not equal-area, conformal, or
    equidistant however, it is considered to look
    right for world maps, and hence is widely used by
    Rand McNally, the National Geographic Society,
    and others. This feature is achieved through the
    use of tabular coordinates rather than
    mathematical formulae for the graticules.

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The Peters Projection Map from Two Perspectives
In 1974, as an effort to reduce the political
bias of conventional maps, Arno Peters created
the 'Peters Projection' of the world so that one
square inch anywhere on the map represents an
equal number of square miles of the earth's
Comparing Projections
"Political" Map
The Myth of Continents
  • The current sevenfold categorization of the earth
    into the continents (that is, continuous,
    discrete masses of land) of Asia, Europe, Africa,
    North America, South America, Oceania (Australia
    and New Zealand), and Antarctica, is a recent
    convention beginning with the threefold system of
    the Ancient Greeks and modified over time into
    today's system. The problem with this kind of
    classification is that most people consider
    "continents" to be "real" geographical realities
    "discovered" through scientific inquiry, instead
    of what they arethe product of creative
    imagination and metageography.
  • Continents not only supposedly reflect physical
    reality, but natural and human features as well .
    In the field of geology, tectonic plates do not
    respect the geographer's continental system, with
    Europe and Asia sharing the same plate for more
    than thirty-five million years, and India being
    tectonically linked, not to Asia, but to distant
  • While it is ridiculous to conceive of Europe as a
    continent and India a subcontinent, the
    continental status of Europe (which shares a land
    mass with Asia), serves to reassure Europeans
    that their sense of western superiority and false
    dichotomies (Europe equals West Asia equals
    East) will go unchallenged.

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The Myth of Continents
  • The traditional notion of continents can be
    abandoned (or at least modified). The idea of a
    North American continent, separate from South
    America, encourages false dichotomies that do not
    reflect actual biological, geological, and
    cultural realities, and that overlooks many
    themes that parallel the history of both regions
    (from cowboy culture to urbanization).
  • By substituting a world regionalism scheme for
    the continental one, today's students will be
    using a regional classification that better fits
    the realities of ethnicity, culture, and history.
    This, then, would be the beginning of an attempt
    to look at the New Old World in a new way.


Regional World Map http//
Which map projection does the College Board use
in their WHAP materials?