Knowledge and Cartography in the Early Atlantic

Matthew H. Edney

in The Oxford Handbook of the Atlantic World

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780199210879
Published online September 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks in History

 Knowledge and Cartography in the Early Atlantic

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This article considers the configuration of the Atlantic by Europeans through the production, circulation, and consumption of spatial information, specifically in the form of maps. It examines each of the several cartographies associated with the early modern Atlantic within their respective knowledge domains. Europeans slowly developed the idea of the Atlantic in order to organise and understand the waters, shores, peoples, and places that they encountered as they sailed westward and southward away from Europe. Understanding the contributions of cartography to the formation of the Atlantic requires an appreciation of the historical limits to the various practices and institutions of making and using maps. It should be considered, for example, the way in which Christopher Columbus, when he headed out into the Ocean Sea in 1492, set aside one way of conceptualising and representing the world and began working in another. He had conceived of his direct voyage to the Indies through participation in the general scholarly discourse of geography (then generally known as ‘cosmography’), which understood the earth to be a sphere and already mapped it using latitude and longitude.

Keywords: Christopher Columbus; Atlantic; Europe; maps; cartography; knowledge

Article.  8859 words. 

Subjects: History ; Maritime History

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