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Labels on a map: Surrey. Lower Norfolk. The Isle of Wight. Northumberland. Middlesex. Not a map England, but of the British colonies of Virginia...

Labels on a map: Surrey. Lower Norfolk. The Isle of Wight. Northumberland. Middlesex. Not a map England, but of the British colonies of Virginia and Maryland published in 1673. This is a map that proclaims empire: from the prominent royal arms, to the ships riding at anchor out in what is labelled the ‘North Sea’. It is both a map of land and of water: rivers open into the interior like great highways; the landscape is thick with English place names. But there are other layers, other presences and histories: indigenous place names, towns and territories not separate but intermingled in a world made less strange by the mere act of naming. And at the top edge of the map, a block of text that describes what lies beyond the Appalachians, where ‘the Rivers take their Originall issuing out into the West Sea’.

Christian J. Koot is Professor of History at Towson University. In A Biography of a Map in Motion: Augustine Herrman’s Chesapeake (NYU Press, 2018) he tells the story of the maker and his map. It was a map in motion along circuits of commerce and knowledge that carried it across an ocean and into the coffeehouses and collections of a metropolitan imperial elite. The book is as striking and detailed as the map at its centre: carefully researched and beautifully illustrated, it illuminates and connects a series of complex worlds.

The map discussed in this interview can be accessed here.


Charles Prior is Senior Lecturer in Early Modern History at the University of Hull (UK), who has written on the politics of religion in early modern Britain, and whose work has recently expanded to the intersection of colonial, indigenous, and imperial politics in early America. He co-leads the Treatied Spaces Research Cluster.