A curious review of Simon Foxell’s Mapping England in the Times earlier this week; it took about half the piece to actually come around to the book:
It’s not the world’s best-edited book — there are factual slips and literals — but it presents a splendidly provocative thesis. Maps, Foxell maintains, are “battlefields of ideas and ideologies, the locus of political, social and cultural skulduggery.” And England, as a non-nation within an uneasy United Kingdom for the past 300-odd years, is particularly prone to loaded image-making by mapmakers with a political or cultural axe to grind.
You can buy that argument or not. But the dozens of fabulous and fantastical maps that the book includes — from the Gough Map of 1360 (England’s first road map) to the surreal fantasy-maps of the artist Layla Curtis, conjuring an England crammed with Japanese place names — certainly make one think about “national identity.”