This is an excellent study of the development of military illustration and mapping. Military enthusiasts and historians will find the content of great interest and value. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced, the work will also appeal to a wider readership, encapsulating the many changes from the introduction of gunpowder. Strongly Recommended.
NAME: Maps of War, Mapping Conflict through the Centuries
AUTHOR: Jeremy Black
PUBLISHER: Bloomsbury, Conway
BINDING: hard back
GENRE: Non Fiction
SUBJECT: military mapping, printing, gunpowder, measurement, calculation, range, range card, ordinance, ordinance survey, topography, fortifications, trench warfare, aerial reconnaissance, planning maps, propaganda, satellite reconnaissance, strategic photography, tactical photography
DESCRIPTION: This is an excellent study of the development of military illustration and mapping. Military enthusiasts and historians will find the content of great interest and value. Lavishly illustrated and beautifully produced, the work will also appeal to a wider readership, encapsulating the many changes from the introduction of gunpowder. Strongly Recommended.
Before the Middle Ages, map making left much to be desired, or at least the surviving maps lack the accuracy and detail we would expect today. Part of the challenge at that period was a lack of any method of producing many copies from a master. Often, an army would have map makers who sketched out the detail of local terrain on parchment, using charcoal sticks. It was quick, it was crude, but it was adequate to the purposes and probably failed to survive the battle or war. The commander of the army might have ordered copies to be made by hand, dividing the map into partial copies, for messengers to take to subordinate commanders, but the range of arrow shot determined the important distances.
That all began to change in the Middle Ages, and largely as a result of the introduction of guns. Gunpowder provided the means to send projectiles over longer distances into besieged fortifications and towns. That required great accuracy because gunners needed to know ranges and set up overlapping fields of fire, but the increasing weight of canon meant that knowledge of terrain became even more important in ensuring that the guns arrived at the right place at the right time, but avoiding soft ground and other obstacles.
By the 16th Century, military maps were achieving a much greater accuracy and contained much more detail, particularly when recording fortifications and walled cities. Some surviving maps are pictures in colour, lovingly executed and works of art, including some by Leonardo da Vinci. The common use of the printing press made it possible to produce many copies from a master drawing and this then encouraged the widespread distribution. In some cases, the maps were intended to help identify vulnerabilities in defences so that they could be corrected. Some were produced for expeditionary forces and became the first maritime maps of coastal waters and defences ashore.
During the development of military map making, there were variations in style. Most maps were a birds-eye view of terrain and fortifications. In the absence of the later concept of contoured maps, some military maps attempted to produce a three dimensional view which did not necessarily show hills and valleys in accurate proportions, but did give a commander some idea of how the terrain laid out to provide obstacles and cover.
Ordinance surveys took military map making to the next level, by carefully plotting datum points and using contour lines to indicate the rise and fall of the ground. As the accuracy was now very good and carried out mainly in peacetime over a period, the maps were not rushed as they once had to be. Logistics could be calculated with some accuracy from these detailed maps and the work of gunners was simplified.
By the 20th Century, military mapping making had advanced further and was being linked to aerial photographs. As photography has become an essential military tool, it has both helped improve maps, and replace them. Digital photography and the use of radar and infrared images has offered huge amounts of information that can be held in computers and used to generate 3D images that can be manipulated to offer multiple views from the same base data.
The author has told the history of military map-making with many fine examples of maps down the centuries to illustrate and expand the text. A comprehensive review of a fascinating and important subject. The publisher is to be commended in the fine production that is offered at a very competitive cover price.