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History: Maps

Historical Online Collections

Map Collections

Map Libraries and other large collections of online images. For further information see:  Maps and Geographic Information Systems (GIS). For maps or atlas' on certain areas, see the history by region or history by subject tabs.

Useful Printed Atalas'

Historical Uses of Maps

Historically, maps have many uses, sometimes not for finding directions. Certainly maps were used for navigation purposes, often for the transport of commercial goods. Maps could be political tools, to claim and define territories for a country or a landlord/ruler. Maps, through their language and content, can also be used as tools of propoganda. Be sure to read the legend to understand what the purpose and the contents of the map are.

Questions to Ask When Reading A Map

  • What is at the center of the map? What is the focus?
  • What is in the margins?
  • What is the purpose of the map?
  • What is missing in the map?
  • What is the perspective of the cartographer?
  • Was the map part of a larger collection, such as an atlas?
  • How was the map made -- by a professional, hand drawn? In this case is the scale significant?