This course, taught for the first time in Fall 2016, explored the history of maps and mapping from the age of Enlightenment to the era of GIS. In the first part of the course we examined the way states and individuals used maps to convey information, create ideas, shape policies, and generate political and cultural capital. We learned to speak the “language” of maps, to read them critically, decode their arguments, and connect them to the historical contexts in which they were produced. In the second part of the course we shifted from the study of historical maps to the study of maps – both print-based and digital – made by historians. How have innovations in cartographic technology, particularly GIS and web mapping, changed the way historians think and write about the past? What new insights about the past can we gain by mapping it? What new stories can we tell? Where, ultimately, does the mapmaker end and the historian begin?

Click here to view the course syllabus.
Click here to go to the course bibliography.

Our collective thanks to

... Jeremy Guillette, Digital Scholarship Facilitator (History Department), whose support was essential to the course from start to finish and whose expertise empowered many students to implement their ideas and to learn a great deal from the process.

... Dave Weimer, Librarian for Cartographic Collections and Learning at the Harvard Map Collection, whose knack for pulling out unexpected gems from the collection and making even run-of-the-mill survey manuals seem like juicy reads inspired us all.


Please contact Prof. Kelly O'Neill {koneill(at)fas.harvard.edu}.