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RHUMB LINES AND MAP WARS

Rhumb Lines and Map Wars

Author(s)                 Mark Mormonier
Publisher University of Chicago
Date 2004
Pages 256
Format pdf
Size 5.7 Mb

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   I conceived this project in mid-June 2001, shortly after participating in a discussion of maps and propaganda on The Public Interest, a midday interview/talk program on National Public Radio hosted by Kojo Nnamdi. The panel included historian Susan Schulten and the National Geographic Society's chief cartographer, Allen Carroll. In addition, Ward Kaiser, former head of Friendship Press, joined the program at one point by telephone. Kaiser is a strong supporter of the Peters projection, a rectangular world map that German historian Arno Peters began promoting in the early 1970s. Although the projection severely distorts shape in the tropics and upper latitudes, it preserves relative area. Even though numerous other map projections also preserve relative area, Peters claimed that his map was uniquely "fair to all peoples" and thus a perfect antidote to the Mercator projection, which significantly diminishes the size of developing nations, mostly in the tropics. Kaiser's presence on the program indicated that the map wars of the 1970s and 1980s were hardly over.

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