Where Is Here?

Last month I finished reading Alan Morantz’s Where Is Here? Canada’s Maps and the Stories They Tell, which I got as a birthday gift last year — it was in the remainder pile. I suppose I should try to say a little bit about it.

It’s an interesting book, and certainly not dry: it’s full of tales of surveyors and speculators, and all manner of eccentric characters. It’s as much about the process of making maps — especially the surveying — as the maps themselves, and how they were used. Of particular interest is the material about aboriginal cartography and hobo signs, but the stories about maps being used to dupe settlers and map collecting are no less fascinating. The tale of one survey in northern British Columbia is pure comedy: you couldn’t make it up.

To a certain extent, it suffers from a nation-building paradigm — a lot of Canadian popular history is inherently Hegelian — but I nevertheless enjoyed it.