By Tom Dare
FROM THE Brexit result and The Battle of Hastings to Queen Elizabeth’s Coronation and Hitler’s planned invasion, a new and epic book tells the history of our islands through an incredible selection of eye-popping maps.
Each of these events marks a critical moment in the history of Great Britain, and images featured in ‘A History of Britain in Maps’ by Philip Parker show a colour-coded map of the UK indicating how each area of the country voted in the Brexit referendum and in what percentages, while another shows the population density in different parts of Great Britain during the Victorian era.
Further maps from the book help lay out Nazi Germany’s plans for Operation Sealion, an audacious plan for the eventual invasion of Britain from mainland Europe, with a further image mapping out the exact route Queen Elizabeth II’s coronation took through London when she was crowned Queen in June 1953.
The fascinating book also features maps of Roman emperor Julius Caesar’s ill-conceived invasion of Britain in 55 BC, London in 1558 and the Spanish Armada in 1588, and was the brainchild of author and historian Philip Parker.
Philip has written books on the Roman Empire, the Vikings and the Himalayas, but says that he that he has a particular interest in maps due to their ability to tell a story.
“Maps are a very ancient way of making sense of our world,” he writes.
“From scratches on rocks made in Neolithic times and ancient Mesopotamian cuneiform tablets to the globe-spanning digital databases of the twenty-first century, they have translated a visual account of a landscape or of a nation into an image that it would take many thousands of words to equal.
“History of Britain in Maps recounts the story of England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland by reflecting on what those maps can tell us about the motives of the mapmakers and the history of the eras in which they lived.
“The maps in this volume span nearly two thousand years, from the Rudge Cup, a bronze Roman vessel which bears a representation of the line of Hadrian’s Wall, to a map showing the distribution of voting in the 2016 referendum on whether Britain should leave the European Union.
“In the time in between, cartographers have mapped routes, property disputes, defensive systems, battles, mineral resources, railways and canal networks, the weather and even the progress of a cholera epidemic; anything in short where the placement of a line, a symbol or an area of shading could display information effectively, tell a story or promote a message.
“Every map tells a story. From the smallest – dealing with a property dispute in medieval Yorkshire – to the largest – portraying the whole of the United Kingdom and the density of population after the 1841 census – they are amongst the most eloquent forms of historical narrative.
“The many maps in this book, with their varied perspectives, motives, forms of execution and differing geographical frames, each tell their own tale. Together they shed refreshing new light on the wonderful kaleidoscope of patterns that is the history of Britain.”
A History of Britain in Maps by Philip Parker is published by Collins, and can be purchased here: https://www.amazon.co.uk/History-Britain-Maps-nation-through/dp/0008258341