al Idrisi's world: 1154


I have used a large number of maps to help illustrate my background notes. The map at the left was made by a Moroccan cartographer al Idrisi. Cartography was quite international then and this was made for Roger II. Hunter-gatherers apparently used stone maps to relate ground locations to other people c40,000 years ago.[1] In c200 BC, Eratosthenes calculated the circumference of the earth as 40,555 kms. He was not quite right it is 40,071 kms, but perhaps he was only wrong because in c520 BC Pythagoras had assessed that the earth was a perfect sphere.[2] Claudius Ptolemy was a Greek-Egyptian geographer in Alexandria, Egypt died in 145 AD. Ptolemy calculated that mapping depended on calculating latitude and longitude to fix locations on earth, so that all locations might be plotted relative to each other and be represented on a two-dimensional grid.[3] The Greeks understood that cartography was inherently related to mathematics, and Ptolemy recorded two projections as examples in his Guide to Geography.

The Romans applied the Greek spatial concepts to organising their empire. The Romans made a variety of scales of maps and used maps to record land ownership. The Romans recorded their 85,000 kms of roads and many of these roads were shown on maps.[4] Clearly the Greeks and later Romans did not believe in a flat earth.


The World c1775


Although I have incorporated most of these following maps within various specific pages, I have also listed many of them here separately to enable direct access. They are provided to further understanding of political strategies and to help clarify who fought whom. In some cases they might best be considered together with the appropriate orders of battle included elsewhere. The maps are listed in rough chronological order. They are shown at a variety of scales and styles to help explain relationships. Some of these maps show original historical views, others are modern and have been created to try to describe situations against a better geographical understanding.

I am indebted to the Dean of the US Military Academy for the most helpful American Revolutionary battle maps. Many of these latter I have included here, although I have excluded the bulk of them from the main discussions.

The map shown here was found at the US Library of Congress web site.[5] The full-scale map was made by Mathew Carey and was published in 1795. An original is held in the Library of Congress Geography and Map Division Washington, DC. By quick examination we can see the world of the American Revolution and the beginning of the end of British control in the Americas. The world seems quite familiar and only lacks the details of the Arctic islands and the Antarctic continent.

Most of my historical interest pre-dates the view shown here and men were therefore increasingly unaware of the boundaries and dimension their own world increasingly as time is backdated. Yet the 'ancients' knew most of their own worlds and some cultures, notably the Phoencians, Greeks, Romans, Chinese, Vikings, and Arabs were adventurous and experienced explorers. I have consulted a large number of geographies and amongst them those noted below.[6]


1          See John Rennie Short, The World Through Maps, p. 32.

2           Ibid, pp. 46-49.

3          Ibid, pp. 52-53.

4          Ibid, pp. 50-51.

5          See US Library of Congress Map Collection, Map of the World from the best authorities at,

6          The following references were used to find maps and geographic information for the site: Andrew Taylor, The World of Mercator; John Rennie Short, The World Through Maps; Ronald Fritze, New Worlds, The Great Voyages of Discovery 1400-1600; Craig L Symonds, A Battlefield Atlas of the American Revolution; Michael Coe, et al, Atlas of Ancient America; Christopher Bayly, Atlas of the British Empire; DGG Kerr, A Historical Atlas of Canada; Ian Castello-Cortes, World Reference Atlas; Geoffrey Barraclough, The Times Atlas of World History; Vincent Esposito & John Robert Elting, A Military History and Atlas of the Napoleonic Wars; and Tim Cornell, John Matthews, Atlas of the Roman World. I have also referred to a large number of helpful geographic websites noted here and elsewhere. See Perry-Castañeda Library Map Collection at,

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