I've spent a good deal of time these last two weeks in Montreal reading Steven Seegel's magnificent book Mapping Europe's Borderlands, and begun writing a review that will appear in the pages of Cartographica in the next few months. Ahead of that I want to recommend this book as an excellent primer on critical cartography.
University of Chicago Press link to the book
Here's the blurb from the dust jacket:
The simplest purpose of a map is a rational one: to educate, to solve a problem, to point someone in the right direction. Maps shape and communicate information, for the sake of improved orientation. But maps exist for states as well as individuals, and they need to be interpreted as expressions of power and knowledge, as Steven Seegel makes clear in his impressive and important new book.
Mapping Europe’s Borderlands takes the familiar problems of state and nation building in eastern Europe and presents them through an entirely new prism, that of cartography and cartographers. Drawing from sources in eleven languages, including military, historical-pedagogical, and ethnographic maps, as well as geographic texts and related cartographic literature, Seegel explores the role of maps and mapmakers in the East Central European borderlands from the Enlightenment to the Treaty of Versailles. For example, Seegel explains how Russia used cartography in the aftermath of the Napoleonic Wars and, later, formed its geography society as a cover for gathering intelligence. He also explains the importance of maps to the formation of identities and institutions in Poland, Ukraine, and Lithuania, as well as in Russia. Seegel concludes with a consideration of the impact of cartographers’ regional and socioeconomic backgrounds, educations, families, career options, and available language choices.