Seeing Like A Map in Colonial North America

If seeing is believing, then maps are belief in hard copy. This seminar explores three key questions related to historical cartography: What kind of historical evidence do maps provide? What can we learn about the era of European colonial settlement in North America by reading the maps that were made to depict discoveries, conquests, and land claims? And how can we maximize the use of these dynamic and vivid primary sources in our K-12 classrooms as training modules through which our students engage habits of historical thinking? In a straightforward sense, maps from the age of exploration and colonization are empirical records of Europeans’ emerging knowledge about particular parts of the earth’s surface. But historical maps are also artifacts of a far broader range of contexts. They express aesthetic and narrative traditions, imply power relations, communicate cultural attitudes, and announce economic motives. With a historiographical background on the cartography of the early modern era, this seminar gets participants used to reading and teaching with maps in a variety of new ways.