The cartography of capitalism: cartographic evidence for the emergence of the capitalist world-system in early modern europe
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The economic competition between the Netherlands, France and England is documented in the atlases published in Amsterdam, Paris and London between 1500 and 1800. However, the relationship between mapping and economic processes remains mostly unexplored in the history of cartography. World-system theory has application to the history of cartography in the early modern period for identifying the linkages between cartography and long-term economic processes.This research analyzes the production of maps, specifically in world and maritime atlases, in these three cities as the geographic expression of the emergent capitalist world system in early modern Europe. The economic concepts of core and periphery as proposed by Immanuel Wallerstein are defined cartographically in the structural morphologies of Dutch, French and English atlases published in this period. Each country mapped itself as a core and such cartographic self-definitions reflect their individual geographic and economic contexts. The Netherlands and England created core atlases in the sixteenth century that evolved in support of business and transport as well as state interests. The French core atlas initiated at the end of the seventeenth century was a governmentally sponsored survey dedicated primarily toward state administration control. The Netherlands, Fance and England also mapped their continental and extra-European peripheries in world and maritime atlases. Dutch engagement in long-distance trade in agricultural commodities created world-system commodity chains of production. Dutch maritime atlases defined these networks of commercial opportunity for the first time. The creators of the first printed world atlases, Dutch cartographers also structured their productions of atlases as a commercial enterprise marketed toward an international clientele. Dutch maritime atlases were an important innovation and Amsterdam atlas publication dominated cartography in the seventeenth century. English publishers adopted Dutch innovations in map production and succeeded to dominance in printing atlases whose structural morphology embodies a world-system of commodity networks. The relationship of cartography to long-term economic processes is demonstrated by the Dutch and English atlases. Early modern world atlases portray the cartographic world-view of core and periphery. The maritime atlases provide the first portrayal of long-distance trade networks that continue to characterize the capitalist exchange of commodities globally.
Woodfin, Thomas McCall (2007). The cartography of capitalism: cartographic evidence for the emergence of the capitalist world-system in early modern europe. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from