Archive for October, 2011
October 18th, 2011
Having read the “Biography of a Map” papers, I now see where the project worked, where it approached my goals set out in the first post, “Biography of a Map—Further Experiments in Pedagogy,” and where it didn’t quite reach those goals. Some of the work has been really good—previously I pointed to student efforts to understand William Penn’s maps as marketing propaganda, “Marketing a Colony.” Other students produced interesting analyses. One student examined William Dugdale’s 17th-century maps of Warwickshire:
In his account of the history of Warwickshire county, The Antiquities of Warwickshire, Sir William Dugdale included a series of maps, one of which depicts the region of Knightlow Hundred. The purpose of this particular map is to define the geographical setting of a significant area within the historical county of Warwickshire. The book, The Antiquities of Warwickshire, works to preserve the medieval history of this county for the gentry. In fulfilling this purpose, it effectively establishes the status of the landed gentlemen. The county of Warwickshire, as well as the boundaries of hundreds, are divisions that date back to Roman times, so by stressing this area as a defined geographical community of gentry, Dugdale gives them a heightened sense of superiority. The establishment of the boundaries and layout of the community allows him to unite the gentry through an account of a shared past. The audience and commissioners of the book, and thus the map, were the gentry themselves who had a private interest [in] elevating and securing their status. All of these factors interplay to create a map that stresses the relations of the gentry and their history amongst the geographical region of Knightlow Hundred, Warwickshire.
October 17th, 2011
Haverford College’s Special Collections is about to open a new exhibition titled “You Are Here: Exploring the Contours of Our Academic Community Through Maps” (more information is here). I was asked to write a caption for James C. Prichard’s ethnographic maps that accompanied his Natural History of Man (1843). Here is the draft of my caption. The exhibition will also feature some student work from my Introduction to the History of Science course, see here.
Mapping Racial Variations
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October 12th, 2011
For the “Biography of a Map” assignment a number of students selected various maps of Pennsylvania. Happily, at least for my pedagogical experiment, they all strove to understand how these maps functioned for William Penn and Thomas Holme, Penn’s surveyor and cartographer. Students placed the maps into the context of Penn’s religious, political, and economic life. Students examined three early maps of Pennsylvania: A Map of some of the South and Eastbounds of Pennsylvania in America, being Partly Inhabited (1681); A Portraiture of the City of Philadelphia in the Province of Pennsylvania in America (1683); Mapp of the Improved Part of Pennsylvania in America (1687).
In approaching these maps, students all tried to see them as more complicated than merely faithful representations of geographic space. As one student wrote: “Maps are not simple reflections of the world around us, but they are complex representations of a space and often leave room for multiple significant interpretations.” Students tried to see Penn’s maps as a form of propaganda or as promotional material. Yes, these maps represent geographic space, but they did so along with other information and in a way that “served to ease some of the fears of wilderness, entice people with the promise of abundance in land and resources, and demonstrate the civilized nature of the young colony.”
One component of this assignment asked students to provide a 200-word caption for the map they studied. The goal was to compell students to distill their report down to the most important point. The descriptions below come from those 200-word captions.
Mapp of the Improved Part of Pennsylvania in America (1687)
This is the earliest county map of south eastern Pennsylvania. In addition to the counties, it shows the many townships, the number of settlements in each township, and lists the prominent land holders and where they own property. Philadelphia occupies just a small space at the bottom of the map, so Thomas Holme, perhaps at Penn’s urging, enlarged the plan of the city and inserted at the top of the map:
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October 7th, 2011
Last fall while teaching a course on the history of the scientific revolution I chronicled my efforts to teach students to be curious. I tried modeling curiosity, showing them how to formulate questions, and explaining good questions (at some point in the near future I will polish off the posts that conclude that particular experiment in pedagogy, which seemed to enjoy mixed results). This fall, in my Introduction to the History of Science course, which spans Greek antiquity through the 14th century with forays into the Islamic and the Byzantine worlds, I am again adjusting my approach in order to get students to struggle with primary sources—old things—much sooner and in a more open-ended way. Moreover, this time I want to use that source material to persuade students to see science, its power to organize reality, and its history in a more nuanced and problematic way.
To accomplish these goals, I jettisoned my course’s typical chronological framework, which structured the first half of the semester. Instead, I opened with a couple weeks on maps and mapping. We began simply enough by looking at some Google maps of the local area, comparing the satellite versions with the schematic map.
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