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Map Of A Nation: A Biography Of The Ordnance Survey (2010)

di Rachel Hewitt

UtentiRecensioniPopolaritàMedia votiCitazioni
3061664,335 (3.84)21
The fascinating story of the creation of the Ordnance Survey map, told for the first time by a brilliant young historian.
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Puts the Ordinance Survey right on the map :). Something we walkers and scramblers have always loved, maps carried next to our hearts across the hills and through the rain, sleet and (rarely) burning sun. Winter nights on the kitchen table plotting routes. And 20 years ago wished for abroad in countries where whole hillsides seemed to be missing from the local maps! A moment in time just as the world changes - GPS, SATNAV, satellite pictures. The author places the start of the Ordinance Survey firmly in the military world, beginning with the Highland clearances and wars with France, continuing with Ireland and the the mapping for taxation, the massive social implications of fixing place names and not forgetting the struggle of the 20th century for access to land. The military, economic and political setting gives the book a real bite without detracting from the heroics of the multitude of people who walked the land actually doing the mapping. ( )
  Ma_Washigeri | Jan 23, 2021 |
I know the exact moment I fell in love with this book. It came on page fifteen of the prologue, wherein Rachel Hewitt describes the debacle of a manhunt that followed the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. For want of a decent map of Scotland, England's fearsome army was led a merry chase across the Highlands by a half-lame septuagenarian and managed to lose "Bonnie" Prince Charles altogether. Charles's defeat came at the Battle of Culloden, famous for being the last pitched battle fought on the British Isles, and infamous for the bloodthirsty zeal of the English troops during and following the battle.

The English army annihilated the two thousand or so Scotsmen in around forty five minutes, and for anyone not quite sure how long forty five minutes is, Rachel Hewitt explains that it's "the time it takes to enjoy a soak in the bath". Upon reading this unlikely comparison between a scene of unimaginable bloodshed and a Cadbury's Flake advert, my eyebrows and jaw raced away from one another. Once I'd dragged down the former and pulled up the latter, I let out a sound somewhere between a snort of appreciation for the outrageous analogy and a snigger of expectation at what other delights the book would hold.

The story of the Ordnance Survey maps turns out to be a fascinating one, and Hewitt tells it brilliantly. Not since Longitude have I been so enthralled by such a dry sounding subject, but not even Dava Sobel wrote this well. The book is always comprehensive but never too slow nor patronising, and has many a nice personal touch as well. The characters that brought the Survey to life are herein brought to life themselves, and thanks to some well placed and never smarmy personal recollections of the author, the book itself almost has a life of its own.

The subject matter might not be to everyone's tastes, but maps aside it's a riveting tale of human triumph over and alongside nature and the elements with some intriguing cameos and some genuinely touching drama. And surely everyone appreciates a book with all that. ( )
  imlee | Jul 7, 2020 |
I know the exact moment I fell in love with this book. It came on page fifteen of the prologue, wherein Rachel Hewitt describes the debacle of a manhunt that followed the Jacobite rebellion of 1745. For want of a decent map of Scotland, England's fearsome army was led a merry chase across the Highlands by a half-lame septuagenarian and managed to lose "Bonnie" Prince Charles altogether. Charles's defeat came at the Battle of Culloden, famous for being the last pitched battle fought on the British Isles, and infamous for the bloodthirsty zeal of the English troops during and following the battle.

The English army annihilated the two thousand or so Scotsmen in around forty five minutes, and for anyone not quite sure how long forty five minutes is, Rachel Hewitt explains that it's "the time it takes to enjoy a soak in the bath". Upon reading this unlikely comparison between a scene of unimaginable bloodshed and a Cadbury's Flake advert, my eyebrows and jaw raced away from one another. Once I'd dragged down the former and pulled up the latter, I let out a sound somewhere between a snort of appreciation for the outrageous analogy and a snigger of expectation at what other delights the book would hold.

The story of the Ordnance Survey maps turns out to be a fascinating one, and Hewitt tells it brilliantly. Not since Longitude have I been so enthralled by such a dry sounding subject, but not even Dava Sobel wrote this well. The book is always comprehensive but never too slow nor patronising, and has many a nice personal touch as well. The characters that brought the Survey to life are herein brought to life themselves, and thanks to some well placed and never smarmy personal recollections of the author, the book itself almost has a life of its own.

The subject matter might not be to everyone's tastes, but maps aside it's a riveting tale of human triumph over and alongside nature and the elements with some intriguing cameos and some genuinely touching drama. And surely everyone appreciates a book with all that. ( )
  leezeebee | Jul 6, 2020 |
Meticulously researched, as highly detailed as the maps whose story it relates. ( )
  dsc73277 | Nov 27, 2016 |
Lots of detail and anecdotes about the people involved in setting up the Ordnance Survey, their families, their ideas, their ambitions, even their pet dogs, but precious little about the actual making of the maps which was a bit disappointing. Covers only the early formation of the survey and stops in about 1840 or so. I would have liked a bit less of Wordsworth and a bit more about the technicalities. ( )
  Thruston | Nov 18, 2015 |
Employed by the Board of Ordnance, William Roy began mapping the Highlands in 1747, pushing a surveyor's wheel and using a simple kind of theodolite called a circumferentor. Later he was joined by a "ragtag bunch of young surveyors" and they finished mapping the entire Scottish mainland in 1755. The Military Survey of Scotland, drawn in pen and ink with watercolour washes, offered "a vast, gorgeous bird's-eye view of mid 18th-century Scotland". But Roy didn't stop there. His dream was a complete map of Britain.
aggiunto da John_Vaughan | modificaGuardian, UK, Ian Pindar (Jul 16, 2012)
 
Although Rachel Hewitt has followed in the footsteps of some of the cartographers she describes, her account is written almost entirely from the perspective of the library reading room.
aggiunto da jburlinson | modificaThe Independent, Nick Groom (Dec 10, 2010)
 
‘Mapping” has become one of the great metaphors of this age. Running parallel to this trend has been a renewed interest in the history of mapping. Rachel Hewitt’s Map of a Nation is a valuable addition to this genre. Her Biography of the Ordnance Survey , is a lively, well-written and carefully researched evocation of how the landscapes of Britain (and Ireland) came to be revealed with such dramatic precision.
 
In this endlessly absorbing history, Rachel Hewitt narrates the history of our printed maps from King George II's "Scotophobic" cartographies to the three-dimensional computerised elevations of today. A marvel of exactitude and the quantifying imagination, the Ordnance project conjures a "Betjemanesque image" of cycle-touring and jolly tramps through bog and heather.
aggiunto da jburlinson | modificaThe Observer, Ian Thomson (Oct 17, 2010)
 
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The fascinating story of the creation of the Ordnance Survey map, told for the first time by a brilliant young historian.

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