How Geography Shaped America’s Self-Understanding

The New Map of Empire bookcover

JMC fellow Jeremy Black reviewed University of Virginia Associate Professor of History S. Max Edelson’s book, The The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independencein The Claremont Review of Books.


Mapping Empire

By Jeremy Black
From Claremont Review of Books


In his Seven Years’ War-era novel Humphry Clinker, Tory journalist Tobias Smollett mocked the Duke of Newcastle for his paltry geographical knowledge:

this poor half-witted creature told me, in a great fright, that thirty thousand French had marched from Acadie [Nova Scotia] to Cape Breton—“Where did they find transports? (said I)” “Transports! (cried he) I tell you they marched by land”—“By land to the island of Cape Breton?” “What! is Cape Breton an island?” “Certainly.” “Ha! are you sure of that?” “When I pointed it out in the map, he examined it earnestly with his spectacles; then, taking me in his arms, “My dear C—! (cried he) you always bring us good news—Egad! I’ll go directly, and tell the king [George II] that Cape Breton is an island.

In truth, we don’t know if Newcastle read maps; such information is rare for this period, especially at the individual level. Nevertheless, as S. Max Edelson, University of Virginia Associate Professor of History, shows in The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America Before Independence, examining the historical record where we can shows the British view of the colonies’ future.

>>Finish reading this review at the Claremont Review of Books. 


Jeremy Black photoJeremy Black’s research interests are British and continental European history, with particular interest in international relations, military history, the press and historical atlases. He was awarded two-year fellowships from the Leverhulme Trust to work on ‘Information and the Making of the Modern World 1450 – 2000′ in 2009. Together with Professor Andrew Thompson, he co-organised a conference on ‘The World: A Deep History of the Tory Party and its Views of Britain’s World Role’ in 2013. Professor Black studied at Queens’ College Cambridge, St John’s College Oxford, and Merton College Oxford before joining the University of Durham as a lecturer in 1980. There he gained his PhD and ultimately his professorship in 1994. He joined Exeter University as Established Chair in History in 1996.

>>Learn more about Professor Jeremy Black here.


Max EdelsonS. Max Edelson studies the history of colonial British America and the Atlantic world. His research seeks to describe the material as well as the cultural dimensions of new world colonization. His first book, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina (Harvard University Press, 2006) examines the relationship between planters and environment in South Carolina as the key to understanding this repressive, prosperous society and its distinctive economic culture. It shows that although plantations often represent stasis in myths of the Old South, they were in fact dynamic instruments of empire. Plantation Enterprise was awarded the George C. Rogers Prize by the South Carolina Historical Society and the Theodore Saloutos Memorial Award by the Agricultural History Society. Harvard University Press published a paperback edition of the book in 2011. Max Edelson and senior scientist Bill Ferster were awarded a National Endowment for the Humanities Digital Implementation Grant in 2012 to develop MapScholar.

>>Learn more about Professor S. Max Edelson here.



Facebook iconTwitter iconFollow us on Facebook and Twitter for updates about lectures, publications, podcasts, and events related to American political thought, United States history, and the Western tradition!


Want to help the Jack Miller Center transform higher education? Donate today.