The New Map of Empire
Finalist for the 2018 George Washington Prize
“The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence”. By S. Max Edelson. ISBN 9780674972117. Copyright 2017. Hardcover with 464 pages including notes, map bibliography, and index.
After the Treaty of Paris ended the Seven Years’ War in 1763, in order to better rule these vast dominions of British America, King George III ordered the Board of Trade to map the new territories with unprecedented rigor and precision. Surveyors were dispatched to map far-flung frontiers, chart coastlines in the Gulf of St. Lawrence, sound Florida’s rivers, parcel tropical islands into plantation tracts, and mark boundaries with indigenous nations across the continental interior. The resulting maps were designed to capture the essential attributes of colonial spaces; their capacities for agriculture, navigation, and commerce and to expand the knowledge the British needed to command colonization from across the Atlantic.
As London’s mapmakers published these images of order in breathtaking American atlases, Continental and British forces were already engaged in a violent contest over who would control the real spaces represented. This innovative spatial history explores the contested geography of the British Atlantic world and offers new explanations of the causes and consequences of Britain’s imperial ambitions prior to the American Revolution.