Jamel Ostwald's
Gateway to the Early Modern World



Maps and History

I've been disappointed with many historian's failure to use maps in their research. In part this is probably due to a lack of training (I've had one, admittedly rudimentary, Elements of Cartography course) and in part due to a lack of tools (particularly inexpensive and intuitive drafting or mapping software). My research will make heavy use of maps, not only for the generic reference maps, but also for analytical purposes - historians, especially military historians, need to be more aware of the spatial variable in their analyses. Detailed spatial descriptions can be much more effectively and efficiently transmitted to the reader in a picture than in words.

For those interested in using maps, the works of Edward Tufte - especially his The Visual Display of Quantitative Information (1983) - are important for graphic design generally, while the cartographer Mark Monmonier has written an extremely useful guide, Mapping It Out: Expository Cartography for the Humanities and Social Sciences (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1993). More general instructions on how to create your own maps, see Sara Tucker's instructions here. Personally, I tend to use either AutoCAD or Visio for mapping, but a general-purpose graphics program will also work fine.

Some good examples of map and chart use include many of the works by Annalistes (Fernand Braudel is the obvious leader), and more recently I've found some interesting ideas in James Wood, The King's Army: Warfare, Soldiers and Society during the Wars of Religion in France, 1562-1576 (Cambridge University Press, 1996). I'd appreciate recommendations on any other interesting examples.

For an example of the maps I'm creating for my dissertation, see the following link:

    Spain 1706 - Note: the CADviewer requires that you Grant the underlying Java script to run - this shouldn't be a concern

    Douai 1710 Garrison Fire - A color plan of the theoretical density of garrison musketfire.

These AutoCAD maps may also be viewed without the above CADviewer if you have the WHIP! plug-in for your browser installed. Click here to download WHIP! (to come).

As you can see with the map, there are some problems with this version - the printed version looks fine, but the conversion over to video display leaves much to be desired. If you have any ideas on how to avoid the grayish areas (color 255, which is invisible when printed, and which hides the underneath layers when it prints), please let me know.

In the future I hope to have Flash-animated maps at this site, including a map of the Flanders campaign of 1710, showing the march of armies throughout the campaign; and a map of the progress of the siege attack, most likely the siege of Douai 1710. Such animated maps display the time variable, which is very difficult to depict on paper without multiple maps.