Browse Primary Sources
Primary sources from world and global history, including images, objects, texts, and digitally-born materials – annotations by scholars contextualize sources.

The Mercator Projection

Although the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator's rendering of the earth has been criticized for the way it distorts reality, it was revolutionary in the way it organized space and distance.

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The Jingban tianwen quantu Map of the World

Like many maps in the pre-modern and early-modern world, this map from China at the end of the 18th century reflected a deeply egocentric worldview.

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Babylonian Map Tablet

This ancient map depicts the known world as imagined by the Babylonians of the 6th century BCE. Like many ancient maps, this cuneiform tablet is concerned less with mathematically plotting space and direction than with simply capturing the various places and peoples in the world around Babylon.

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The Turin Beatus Map of the World

Before the modern age, maps offered more than just an objective, geographical survey. Often, as is the case with this world map from the 12th century, they also conveyed a set of stories that shaped the worldview of its viewers. This map, for instance, sought to convey allegorical, religious, and geographic information all at once.

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Marshall Islands Stick Charts

The Marshall Island stick charts represent a unique and non-Western tradition of mapmaking. Whereas Western maps generally attempt to capture and visualize distance and space, the charts of the Marshallese dwelt not just on general direction, with shells representing nearby islands, but, more importantly, ocean currents and swell movements.

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Plan for the City of Moscow

This 1793 map of Moscow shows a relatively modest and compact city when compared to the sprawling metropolis of the 21st century. From this perspective, the viewer can see the remains of a fortification wall that once encompassed the entirety of the city.

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Map of Poverty in Mexico

Maps are often designed to visualize more than just space and distance. This map, for instance, visualizes how poverty is distributed throughout the various Mexican states in hopes of identifying those areas most in need. The form of this map, or the artistic way in which the map is drawn, is meant to tell the story of how deeply the issue of poverty affects the people in each region.

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Ptolemy's World Map

Ptolemy was an ancient geographer working in Rome in the 2nd century AD.

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Africae tabula noua

This standard map of Africa came from a popular Atlas in the late sixteenth century. In a dramatic age of exploration, new information poured in from around the world through books and travel accounts that artists and geographers, like Abraham Ortelius, used to craft beautifully detailed maps of far off lands.

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Excerpt from Aguinaldo’s Case Against The United States

The Philippines, an archipelago of over 7,000 islands in the western Pacific Ocean, had been a Spanish colony for over 300 years by the 1890s. Filipino nationalists led by Emilio Aguinaldo rebelled against Spanish rule beginning in 1896. When the United States declared war against Spain over events in Cuba in 1898, the U.S. Navy moved against Spanish colonies in the Pacific as well. U.S.

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