New Book | The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America

Posted in books by Editor on November 22, 2017

From Harvard UP:

S. Max Edelson, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2017), 480 pages, ISBN 978 067497 2117, $35.

After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, British America stretched from Hudson Bay to the Florida Keys, from the Atlantic coast to the Mississippi River, and across new islands in the West Indies. To better rule these vast dominions, Britain set out to map its new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. The New Map of Empire pictures the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions in the generation before the American Revolution. Under orders from King George III to reform the colonies, the Board of Trade dispatched surveyors to map far-flung frontiers, chart coastlines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sound Florida’s rivers, parcel tropical islands into plantation tracts, and mark boundaries with indigenous nations across the interior. Scaled to military standards of resolution, the maps they produced sought to capture the essential attributes of colonial spaces—their natural capacities for agriculture, navigation, and commerce—and give British officials the knowledge they needed to take command over colonization from across the Atlantic.

Britain’s vision of imperial control threatened to displace colonists as meaningful agents of empire and diminished what they viewed as their greatest historical accomplishment: settling the New World. As London’s mapmakers published these images of order in breathtaking American atlases, Continental and British forces were already engaged in a violent contest over who would control the real spaces they represented.

Accompanying Edelson’s innovative spatial history of British America are online visualizations of more than 250 original maps, plans, and charts.

S. Max Edelson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia.


List of Maps*
A Note on the Maps

1  A Vision for American Empire
2  Commanding Space after the Seven Years’ War
3  Securing the Maritime Northeast
4  Marking the Indian Boundary
5  Charting Contested Caribbean Space
6  Defining East Florida
7  Atlases of Empire

Map Bibliography

* Maps
• Detail from Emanuel Bowen, An Accurate Map of North America (London, 1763). From The National Archives of the UK, Open Government License v3.0
• Detail from Daniel Paterson, “Cantonment of His Majesty’s Forces in N. America,” 1767, Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, DC, gm72002042
• Detail from [Samuel Holland] and John Lewis, “A Plan of the Island of St. John in the Province of Nova Scotia,” 1765, The National Archives of the UK, Open Government License v3.0
• Detail from John Pickens, “Boundary Line between the Province of South Carolina and the Cherokee Indian Country,” 1766, The National Archives of the UK, Open Government License v3.0
• Detail from M. Pinel, Plan de l’Isle de la Grenade ([London], 1763). From Baldwin Collection, Toronto Public Library, 912.72984 J24
• Detail from William De Brahm, “Special Chart of Cape Florida” [1765], Library of Congress Geography and Map Division, Washington, DC, 75693274
• Detail from J. F. W. Des Barres, [Chart of Hell Gate, Oyster Bay and Huntington Bay,] 1778, in The Atlantic Neptune (London, 1777–[1781]). Map reproduction courtesy of the Norman B. Leventhal Map Center at the Boston Public Library, Richard H. Brown Revolutionary War Map Collection

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