Gavin King-Smith kindly sent me a link yesterday to a talk on Radio 3
(http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b03h3p4n). Oddly, it was about maps.
It can still be got on at this address for those who are interested.
It was a discussion concerning the power of maps. Some of the themes
had been brought to us already by Chris Fleet and others about the
reasons for making maps and what they actually portray.. The worry
(amongst other parts of the discussion) was about the re-privatising
of maps through our reliance on things like Google Maps. Of course
the nice lady from the Ordnance Survey thought that everything that
the OS did was wonderful and I thought slightly missed the point that
was being made.
Someone quite recently (I forget who) pointed out to me that maps were
but a caricature of what was actually there. They could be nothing
else. They have exaggerated features of one kind or another even if
it is just the symbols used or an inappropriate road width. What they
leave out can be as interesting as what they put in.
James C. Scott in "Seeing Like a State" makes remarks about how
mapping makes the "state" more legible and thus more easily taxable
(amongst other things). However he also makes another point as to how
the map will also change what is there. He writes "Thus a state
cadestral map created to designate taxable property-holders does not
merely describe a system of land tenure; it creates such a system
through its ability to give its categories the force of law."
In thisrespect one wonders specifically about modern satellite agricultural
mapping and its numerous categories and how that forces the landowner
to farm in a specific manner. The urge to change is only modified by
the grant and the grant is currently most modified by the changes in
mapping of rocks and bracken. It is but a thought.
In Scott's book there are also examples of Russian change from small
peasant strips to enclosure in exactly a similar manner to how it
happened here over a hundred years earlier. The division of Commonty
map that Graham showed us the other day was remarkably similar to the
Stolypin Reforms of the early 20th century in Russia. My personal
perception of enclosure is that it was (as Sellar and Yeatman would
say) "a good thing" as agricultural production definitely increased
and with the last famine in this neck of the woods being in 1690's.
It also makes one wonder about the long term wisdom of farming
becoming extensive again... but that perhaps strays a little far from
If you have got this far reading this blog..... please do send in any
comments/thoughts revolutionary or not that might be of interest.
Also if you have read anything on maps that you think may interest
others please do let us know.