We are delighted to announce that you can now watch a video-recording of the richly-illustrated event on ‘Mapping the Georgian World – Maps and Power in the reign of George III’ which was delivered to an enthusiastic audience at the 2017 Arts and Humanities Festival at King’s College London on 9 October 2017. The main speakers are Peter Barber and Max Edelson. We are very grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Institute at King’s College London for making this available, James Howard in King’s AV and to Professor Edelson for his help in synchonizing his presentation with the recording. To watch the recording, click here.
The Hanoverian British monarchy presided over a vast array of dominions spread across the globe, each presenting its own challenges to those who needed either to understand or to govern and exploit the different regions. Maps came to play a crucial role in confronting those challenges, transferring knowledge and opportunities across considerable distances, not least to those who never traversed them themselves. One such person was King George III – a monarch who, though in many respects defined in his reign by his relations with both North America and Europe, was unusual amongst his contemporary rulers in never leaving his own kingdom (and even England) at any point in his reign. Yet George had a keen interest in his dominions, and this found expression not least in his interest in maps, of which he became an avid collector and a patron to mapmakers.
This panel brings together Peter Barber, the leading authority on George III’s map collection and former head of the Map Collection at the British Library, and Dr Max Edelson, a leading authority on the mapping of colonial America and a pioneer of its digital interpretation, to discuss the place of maps in the exercise of rule and authority in the eighteenth century.
These richly illustrated talks will provide a fascinating opportunity to reflect on the significance of these often beautiful and intricate objects in shrinking distance and creating understanding in the age of Enlightenment.
The session will be chaired Professor Arthur Burns, Academic Director of the Georgian Papers Programme at King’s, with Max Edling as commentator.
Peter Barber: After studying at Sussex University and the London School of Economics in 1975 Peter Barber became a curator in the Department of Manuscripts at the British Library where, between 2001 and 2015, he was Head of Map Collections. He has written extensively on a wide range of aspects of the history of pre- modern maps, particularly on medieval mappae mundi, the map collections of the British Library, English maps in the sixteenth century, and maps at European courts between 1500 and 1800, especially at the courts of King Henry VIII, Queen Elizabeth I, and King George III. He has curated or acted as consultant to numerous exhibitions both in the UK and abroad and has acted as consultant to and appeared in several radio and television documentaries. Since 2015 he has been a visiting professor in the Department of History, King’s College London, and is a member of the academic steering committee of the Georgian Papers Programme. In 2012 he was appointed an OBE for services to cartography and topography.
Max Edelson is Associate Professor of History at the University of Virginia, where he teaches the history of cartography, early America, and the Atlantic world. His prize-winning first book, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Harvard University Press, 2006), examined the relationship between planters and environment in the Carolina Lowcountry as the key to understanding this repressive, prosperous society and its distinctive economic culture. His new book, The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence (Harvard University Press, 2017), describes how Great Britain attempted to take command of North America and the West Indies in the generation before the American Revolution. He is co-director of the UVA-ICJS Early American Seminar at Monticello and creator of MapScholar, a digital visualization platform purpose-built for map history research and display
Commentator: Max Edling. A native of Sweden, he did his undergraduate studies at Lund University before taking an MPhil at the University of Dublin, and PhDs in history and political science from Cambridge and Stockholm Universities. He was awarded the Docent degree by Uppsala University in 2012 before joining King’s College London in 2012. His research focuses on the American founding and the creation of the American state. His most recent project was an investigation of the fiscal system and public finances in the United States from the American Revolution to the aftermath of the Civil War, with a focus on the funding of war and territorial expansion. Dr Edling is currently working both on the origins of the US Constitution and the composite or imperial structure of the early American polity.
The British Library has announced the launch of Picturing Places, a new free online resource which explores the Library’s extensive holdings of landscape imagery.
Picturing Places will help researchers interested in the Georgian period to visualise the eighteenth century more clearly. One of the leads on the project, Felicity Myrone at the British Library, was recently a King’s Research Fellow on the Georgian Papers Programme. Felicity’s project is focused on the topographical map collection of George III and this work contributed to the Picturing Places resource.
The British Library’s huge collection of historic prints and drawings is a treasure trove waiting to be discovered. Picturing Places showcases works of art by well-known artists such as Thomas Gainsborough and J.M.W. Turner alongside images by a multitude of lesser-known figures. Only a few have ever been seen or published before.
This is the first time that a large and important body of such materials from the Library are being brought to light. While landscape images have often been treated as accurate records of place, this website reveals the many different stories involved – about travel and empire, science and exploration, the imagination, history and observation.
As well as over 500 newly-digitised works of art from the collection, this growing site will feature over 100 articles by both emerging and established scholars from many disciplines. As part of the British Library’s ongoing Transforming Topography research project, films from the Library’s 2016 conference exploring the depiction of place are also accessible, providing revelatory insights about the history of landscape imagery.
Moreover, the Picturing Places project emerged out of two larger programmes of ongoing research at the British Library that may be of interest to Georgian researchers.
King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation
Perhaps most significantly, there is the King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation. George III’s extensive ‘K.Top’ collection of around 30–40,000 maps and views reflects changing impressions of place and space across the 16th–19th centuries through manuscript and printed atlases; architectural drawings and garden plans; maps and records of military campaigns, fortifications, barracks, bridges and canals; records of town and country houses, civic and collegiate buildings; drawn and printed records of antiquities including stained glass, sculpture, tombs, mosaic pavements and brasses; and thousands of drawn and printed views.
The collection includes the work of familiar names from Hollar to Hawksmoor, alongside the works of a host of lesser-known artists and amateurs and much anonymous or unidentified material. The British Library has received support from a number of generous donors to make this material available digitally.
The core aim of the ongoing King’s Topographical Collection Cataloguing and Digitisation Project is to provide free online access to George III’s maps and views. The main outputs are the ongoing creation of detailed and searchable catalogue records on the Explore catalogue and high quality digital images, which will be available there in 2018. This project has also involved sharing our records with other institutions and initiating research projects.
A 2017 PhD placement will initiate the study of George III’s parallel collection of sea charts and atlases. This project will be known as the King’s Maritime Collection.
Secondly, there is broader work on understanding the relationship between society and the landscape. This is being explored in the Transforming Topography project.
Topography is an emerging and dynamic field in art historical scholarship. The core aim of the Transforming Topography research project is to stimulate research in this often-overlooked field. It presents topographical art as complex imagery which needs to be explored and understood in relation to the shifting motives of all those involved in its creation.
Rather than seeing topographical art as marginal compared to the landscapes in oils or watercolours by the canon of ‘great artists’ or more imaginative and Sublime images, a growing number of scholars are embracing the historical study of images of specific places in the graphic arts. This is sparking a lively debate around nationhood, identity, and cultural value, or what John Barrell describes as ‘the conflict and coexistence of the various… “stakeholders” in the landscape and in its representation’ (Barrell, Edward Pugh of Ruthin, 2013).
Our collection holds the world’s most extensive and important collection of British topographic materials: from handwritten notes by antiquarians to rare first editions, extra-illustrated books and unique compilations of plates, text and drawings by named collectors. The full extent and depth of the collections are only now being properly recognised and explored.