Thursday, July 29, 2010
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
The Ming dynasty, who overthrew the Yuan, chose Nanjing as their first capital, and the controversial move to Beijing required a great deal of rebuilding to take place. The Yongle Emperor who made the decision was quite convinced about the city’s location, deeming it to be ‘strong and secure. The mountains and rivers protect it well, and ten thousand nations lie on its four sides. It is a place favoured for sound reasons, by the mind of heaven and by exact divination.’
At the heart of the Yongle Emperor’s vision lay the vast palace complex known to all as the Forbidden City, connected by an avenue to a majestic complex gate structure at the south called Zhengyangmen (the gate that faces directly to the sun) or Qianmen. During the 16th century an outer wall was added, and when the Qing dynasty took over Beijing, with no destruction of its architecture, this subdivision of the city provided the basis for a concentration of Manchu people within the inner city, known to European visitors as the ‘Tartar city’, and the banishment of Han Chinese to the ‘Chinese city’ outside.
From AD 1533 onwards a visitor approaching Beijing from the south would first encounter the Yongdingmen in the southern wall of the Outer City. Passing through he would head north along an avenue that separated the walled Temple of Heaven in the east from the Temple of Mountains and Rivers to the west. After crossing the Tianqiao (Heavenly Bridge) the road narrowed as it approached the complex fortified structure of the Zhengyangmen. Nowadays it presents the appearance of two unconnected towers, but once a semicircular wall like a barbican, through which were three passages, joined the two together. The central entrance was used only by the emperor, and it was from Zhengyangmen that the Ghongzhen Emperor bade farewell to Li Jiantai, the Secretary of the Grand Council who set out with an army to quell the uprising of the rebel leader Li Zicheng. Two months later Li Zicheng conquered Beijing and overthrew the Ming dynasty, and thus unintentionally left the way open for the Manchu conquest.
Today’s tourist then passes through the Qianmen complex and walks round the Chairman Mao Memorial Hall into the vast and bleak Tian’anmen Square. Until quite recently in history this was a more restricted area crossed by the imperial way as it passed north to the Tian’anmen (gate of heavenly peace) which originally dates from AD 1420 and towers 33.7m above the entrance to the Forbidden City. But there are still two gates to cross, the Duanmen and the Wumen, before the Forbidden City is reached.
Aberdour Castle is located in the village of Easter Aberdour, Fife, Scotland. Parts of the castle date from around 1200, making Aberdour one of the two oldest datable standing castles in Scotland, along with Castle Sween in Argyll, which was built at around the same time.
The earliest part of the castle comprised a modest hall house, on a site overlooking the Dour Burn. Over the next 400 years, the castle was successively expanded according to contemporary architectural ideas. The hall house became a tower house in the 15th century, and was extended twice in the 16th century. The final addition was made around 1635, with refined Renaissance details, and the whole was complemented by a walled garden to the east and terraced gardens to the south. The terraces, dating from the mid-16th century, form one of the oldest gardens in Scotland, and offer extensive views across the Firth of Forth to Edinburgh.
The castle is largely the creation of the Douglas Earls of Morton, who held Aberdour from the 14th century. The earls used Aberdour as a second home until 1642, when their primary residence, Dalkeith House, was sold. A fire in the late 17th century was followed by some repairs, but in 1725 the family purchased nearby Aberdour House, and the medieval castle was allowed to fall into decay. Today, only the 17th-century wing remains roofed, while the tower has mostly collapsed. Aberdour Castle is now in the care of Historic Scotland, and is open to the public all year.
The barony of Aberdour was acquired in 1126, by Sir Alan de Mortimer, on his marriage to Anicea, daughter of Sir John de Vipont. Sir Alan built St Fillan's Church, which still stands, next to the castle, in around 1140, and his family probably built the original hall house in around 1200, or possibly even earlier. In 1216, another Alan de Mortimer is recorded granting land to the monks of Inchcolm Abbey. There is no record of what happened to the de Mortimers, but in the early 14th century, King Robert the Bruce granted Aberdour to his kinsman, Thomas Randolph, Earl of Moray (d. 1332). Moray's grandson granted the barony in turn to Sir William Douglas of Liddesdale (c. 1300-1353), in 1342.
In 1351, Sir William Douglas gave the lands of Aberdour to his nephew, Sir James Douglas of Dalkeith, although he retained the castle for himself until his death two years later. The grant was confirmed by King David II in 1361. In 1386 Aberdour and Dalkeith were combined to form a single barony, with the principal seat at Dalkeith, near Edinburgh, and Aberdour as a secondary residence. James, fourth Lord Dalkeith, succeeded to the joint barony in 1456, and was created Earl of Morton in 1458, prior to his marriage to Joanna, the deaf and dumb daughter of James I. The newly-created earl expanded the existing hall house, heightening and rebuilding the structure to suit his elevated status. The second earl carried out extensions to Aberdour Castle around 1500, building a new stair tower and south block.
Sunday, July 11, 2010
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Mark S. Monmonier. No Dig, No Fly, No Go: How Maps Restrict and Control. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2010. xiii + 242 pp. $65.00 (cloth), ISBN 978-0-226-53467-1; $18.00 (paper), ISBN 978-0-226-53468-8.
Reviewed by Richard Harris (University of Bristol)
Published on H-HistGeog (July, 2010)
Commissioned by Robert J. Mayhew
Published on H-HistGeog (July, 2010)
Commissioned by Robert J. Mayhew
Maps: Restricting and Enabling
Had this book arrived without its cover, the author would have remained obvious. This is a Mark Monmonier text through and through: well written, engaging, mildly provocative, quirky at times, lavishly illustrated (albeit in black and white) and underpinned by a dry but generous sense of humor. It is full of interesting examples of how maps are used to naturalize claims to territory and then to restrict access.
As it happens my copy came fully intact with the blurb describing it as “a worthy successor to his critically acclaimed How to Lie with Maps.” Well, yes, it is a successor and its predecessor has been critically acclaimed (rightly so). There is also a return to previous themes, most notably an expanded discussion of gerrymandering boundaries for political gain (with the passing note that its namesake, Governor Elbridge Gerry, has been somewhat unfairly associated with the process).
However, as Monmonier himself writes, the new book is better understood as the fourth in a series of short cartographic histories exploring the evolution and impact of a map symbol or feature. The first, Rhumb Lines and Map Wars (2004) is about grid lines. From Square Tit to Whorehouse Meadow (2006) is about standardized place and feature names. Coast Lines (2008) is about how mapmakers frame the world and chart environmental change. In his new book Monmonier turns to “prohibitive cartography”--how cartography works as a mapping tool, leading to “our unconscious acceptance of cartographic boundaries of all types as natural, beneficial, and worth obeying” (p. xii).
The key point is that boundaries matter. They delimit and (literally) ground a claim to territorial possession. By doing so they shout to would-be trespassers, “keep out!” This is true at multiple scales.
Monmonier begins by looking at property properties, how they have been surveyed and marked, and the challenges of recovering a boundary described by historical landmarks. A discussion of frontier lands shows how large tracts of the United States were carved into apparently regular grids but ones that converge towards the North Pole. Hence the phenomenon of otherwise long and straight roads having occasional and seemingly inexplicably bends: they are due to the offset of land boundaries, correcting for converging meridians.
Turning to geopolitics, Monmonier considers the construction of physical barriers such as the Israeli security fence around the West Bank, the creation of national boundaries based on ethno-cultural and economic criteria of “self-determination” after World War I, and present-day territorial boundaries claimed by “absentee landlords” (Monmonier’s phrase). An example of the third is in Antarctica where neat but not undisputed boundaries divide the polar pie into national slices, the boundaries of which extend out and are defined by conveniently located coastal positions, islands, and landmarks on other continents.
Even more natural boundaries are scrutinized for the false sense of obviousness they attempt to bestow. Water rights are particularly problematic. Who, for example, owns the land that is eroded from one shore and deposited on another? And what if that changing landscape also happens to define a nation’s boundary? How about maritime boundaries? It’s all very well to say they extend a certain distance from the shoreline but coastlines are fractal so what is the appropriate level of generalization to apply to the map before making the measurement? Then there are the complications of estuaries, submerged land, continental shelves, and offshore islands. The use of cartography to defend, define, and contest territorial claims is fascinating, as are the legal-cum-moral asides: does an island nation retain its claim to maritime waters if it is submerged by rising sea levels due to climate change? It’s less of a moot discussion for residents of the Maldives.
Whereas some boundaries define ownership, others delimit what can take place within, or what or who should be kept out. Examples including municipal zoning plans that range from micro-managing the architectural and physical appearance of “historic neighborhoods” to controlling the types of commerce and business that may take place within. But not entirely: adult shops have the right to operate somewhere. The dilemma for the city official is where: away from schools and religious buildings, of course, but then all together in a single “adult use district” or dispersed across the region? Or perhaps they could be directed to a corner of the municipality where the only access route is from across the border?
Throughout the book Monmonier eloquently describes a wide range of case studies in a manner that retains but does not the swamp the reader in detail, the uniqueness and, often, outright bizarreness of particular circumstances. At the same time, the studies come together to demonstrate how simple lines on a map belie protracted negotiations, legal complexities, claims and counterclaims, and the ulterior motivations behind the questionable logic that lays claim to territory. It is, perhaps, a little too descriptive. The text lacks a discussion of the power of maps (to cite another book title) to beguile and seduce. How actually do maps work? Do they really restrict or are they simply the end product--the cartographic visualization of prior decisions to restrict and control? Each chapter has only a brief introduction and the end tends to be left hanging. Whilst this leaves readers free to draw their own conclusions, some may want a little more sign-posting about the path the text is taking and what is to be learned along the way.
A second minor criticism I have is that the title frames a generally negative view of how maps operate: no dig, no fly, no go. However, as the book itself makes clear, boundaries are constructed and maps make them visible. That means they can be contested. Perhaps the book might have ended on a more positive note, looking at participatory mapping or so-called (but dubiously named) neogeography, where new technologies and access to data enable the world to be mapped and imagined from multiple points of view.
These are quibbles. The book is excellent and scholarly throughout, well written for anyone who is interested in the importance of maps in society and on the world stage. It should be required reading for all students of geography and is a highly recommended addition to the Monmonier canon.