Saturday, December 12, 2015

An Atlas contained everything an imperialist could need


расстояние от Лондона на карте

Time travel

An isochronic map shows where to go, how long it took to get there – and what changes were on the way
IN 1914 JOHN G. BARTHOLOMEW, the scion of an Edinburgh mapmaking family and cartographer royal to King George V, published “An Atlas of Economic Geography”. It was a book intended for schoolboys and contained everything a thrusting young entrepreneur, imperialist, trader or traveller could need. As well as the predictable charts of rainfall, temperature and topography, it had maps showing where you could find rubber, cotton or rice; maps showing the distribution of commercial languages, so that if you wanted to do business in Indonesia you knew to do so in Dutch; and maps showing the spread of climatic diseases, so that if you did find yourself in Indonesia you knew to look out for tropical dysentery. It also contained the map you see here, which told you how long it would take to get there from London: between 20 and 30 days.
This is an isochronic map – isochrones being lines joining points accessible in the same amount of time – and it tells a story about how travel was changing. You can get anywhere in the dark-pink section in the middle within five days – to the Azores in the west and the Russian city of Perm in the east. No surprises there: you’re just not going very far. Beyond that, things get a little more interesting. Within five to ten days, you can get as far as Winnipeg or the Blue Pearl of Siberia, Lake Baikal. It takes as much as 20 days to get to Tashkent, which is closer than either, or Honolulu, which is much farther away. In some places, a colour sweeps across a landmass, as pink sweeps across the eastern United States or orange across India. In others, you reach a barrier of blue not far inland, as in Africa and South America. What explains the difference? Railways.

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