Mapping

10 maps that made Canada

In A History of Canada in 10 Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land, Adam Shoalts delves into the fascinating stories behind the people and maps that helped shape a nation  
  • Oct 06, 2017
  • 307 words
  • 2 minutes
Adam Shoalts A history of Canada in 10 maps Expand Image
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“The best adventures, it seems, often start with a map,” writes explorer Adam Shoalts in his new book, A History of Canada in 10 Maps: Epic Stories of Charting a Mysterious Land.

That’s certainly true of the exploits of characters such as Edmond Dantès, Indiana Jones and Lara Croft, as Shoalts notes — but he insists that when it comes to cartography, fact trumps fiction: “Hidden away in archives or carefully preserved in temperature-controlled museum cases sit real, historic maps that are even more fascinating.”

Shoalts makes good on this argument, presenting 10 maps that span nearly a thousand years, tell “stories of adventure, discovery and exploration, but also of conquest, empire, power, and violence,” and are connected to explorers ranging from the Vikings to Sir John Franklin.

The excerpt below includes maps and portions of text from the chapters of the book about Jacques Cartier, David Thompson and Franklin.

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The birth of “Canada”

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Pierre Desceliers’ world map, 1550. Source: Copyright British Library / Granger, NYC. All Rights Reserved. Image No. 0622987
 
[Jacques] Cartier’s significance lies not in his failed colony but in the new geographic knowledge his voyages generated. For the first time they allowed world maps to be made that showed not only the Old World continents of Europe, Africa, and Asia, but much of northeastern North America as well. Cartier had, literally, put “Canada” on the map. He had increased not only European geographic knowledge, but in transporting Iroquoian people to France, aboriginal geographic knowledge. The world, in other words, was shrinking — the mysteries of what lay beyond the oceans were gradually being solved.
A map showing discoveries made by British officers in the Arctic between 1818 and 1826. Source: Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine
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A map showing discoveries made by British officers in the Arctic between 1818 and 1826. Source: Osher Map Library, University of Southern Maine
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