Map of the day

Source – Cornell University

The Imperial Federation Map of the World

Prior to Encarta, Google and Wikipedia, maps such as these were designed to create awe, inspire, provide important and accurate information and look good too. This one is certainly a work of art and would have been found in libraries and classrooms. To be able to zoom in click here

This map was drawn by Walter Crane in 1886. These are the notes from the collector –

The Imperial Federation League map was published at the time of the Colonial and Indian Exhibition in 1886, “a showcase for the wealth and industrial development of the British Empire.” It is “dated just before the Queen’s Golden Jubilee in 1887,” and “reflects the celebratory consciousness of Victoria’s Empire.” (Biltcliffe 2006, 65).

“The map is the perfect symbol of the state.” (Monmonier 1991, 88). In many ways, this is “an excellent candidate for the quintessentially imperial map. It seems to encapsulate the culture of high Victorian imperialism in a single iconic image conjoining the infrastructure of empire (represented by the statistics of trade and by the lines connecting major ports of call) and imperial fantasy (especially the use of statuesque human bodies, flora and fauna around its crowded margins to denote whole continents, races and landscapes).” (Driver 2010, 149; see Biltcliffe 63-64). The late Brian Harley, the intellectual leader of cartographic “deconstruction,” wrote that “As much as guns and warships, maps have been the weapons of imperialism” and he used this map to illustrate the point! (Harley 1988, 282, 283).

But further analysis suggests a more complex picture. Although the map cites the author of its statistical data, it does not (surprisingly) name the mapmaker. As a result of an outstanding recent paper, we now know that the map was prepared by a well-regarded illustrator of the time, Walter Crane. The work matches his distinctive style, and the lower left corner of the map bears his tiny mark: a crane and the initials W. C. (Biltcliffe 64-65). The failure to credit Crane was no doubt a result of his politics: he was “a leading figure in the socialist movement” (Menges 2010, x), and for years contributed weekly cartoons to the leading movement periodicals, Justice and Commonweal, “glorifying the cause of Labour, or protesting against the tyranny of Capital.” Konody 1902, 82; see Biltcliffe 65; Driver 152.

In many ways, Crane had the last word. A “particularly striking feature” of “Freedom,” “Fraternity” and “Federation” at the top of the map “is their headwear, distinctly reminiscent – at least to those who cared to read the symbolism – of the red Phrygian cap worn by liberated slaves in ancient Rome, which was adopted as a French revolutionary symbol of liberty and widely used as an anti-colonial icon in the nineteenth century.” (Driver 151; Barron 2008, 14). And while Britannia sits astride the world as always, and Atlas carries the world on his shoulders as always, there is a novel sash across his chest, reading “Human Labour”!

Cornell University – Persuasive Maps

 


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