Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Are Our Maps Upside Down?

I was watching a generic History of Britain - Viking Era documentary recently and one of the throw away lines was that the Norman Invasion changed Britain's orientation from North towards Scandinavia to South towards France.

For various strategic reasons the orientation has stayed that way for a very long time. But Britain, and more so in the best parts (i.e. the stabby northern parts from whence I hail), is not really like France and Spain towards which it is pointed on most maps. Britain is a lot more like the Netherlands (the last successful invader I guess) Germany (the last successful dynastic transplant) and Scandinavia.  

And if you turn the map upside down, the fit seems much more natural, with France and pensioner depository Spain much further away than as are consciously considered. 

I am not suggesting that a guerrilla army be formed to storm every school and turn around maps (hmmm, or am I?). But it is an interesting thought as to how something mundane and arbitrary can shape our perception of the world.


The Stigler said...

The Netherlands is a lot like Britain. That said, northern France is quite different to southern France.

Mark Wadsworth said...

The British isles look about equidistant between Spain and Sweden on that map.

(Some African nationalists reckon that Whitey shows the map upside down to suggest White superiority over dark skinned people.)

SumoKing said...

but in my head Sweden is practically in Russia and Spain is next door.

It could all be a cheese guild conspiracy!

In fact! to tie in with the poll, Christianity is probably a cheese guild conspiracy too "Jesus" and "cheeses" sound pretty similar to me!

No wonder the cheese making countries are all Catholic!

Mark Wadsworth said...

"No wonder the cheese making countries are all Catholic"

?? Had you said "wine making" then fair point, but cheese? What about Wensleydale?

SumoKing said...

there is only 1 way to resolve this

DBC Reed said...

It may depend on the map projection: cylindrical projections (Mercator esp) make places like Greenland etc look far too big.

Mark Wadsworth said...

DBC, yes but what kind of projection would you use for a not-quite-spherical cheese?

DBC Reed said...

One of my jobs as a young man at Sainsburys was cutting giant cheeses with a cheese-wire, having first carried them in from the delivery lorry.The knack was for two of you to get the wire under the cheese and then pull up, projecting a goodly lump of cheese onto the ceiling where it stuck a surprising number of times.This is my only knowledge of cheese projection.

George Carty said...

The medieval Arabs used to put north at the bottom of their maps.