THOROUGHLY MODERN MAN: Maps and the 20th Century

Maps and the 20th Century at the British Library is an educational and aesthetic wonder – the history of the century is told so eloquently and convincingly through its maps.


Here we have maps as paintings and paintings as maps, maps that tell the future and mourn the past, maps that charm: the post-traumatic 1918 map of Fairyland, and maps that might offend: all that hubristic pink in the possessions of the British Empire.

The maps of conflict are among the most extraordinary: a 1914 map showing countries as animals biting and clawing at one another, or a minutely detailed Soviet map of poor little Brighton hinting at some nefarious intention.

Scale is obviously key in mapping and there is such poetry in the minor becoming major and vice versa: a little globe not of the earth but the moon, or Jeremy Wood’s GPS autobiography, a spidery white line documenting all his movements around London over the past sixteen years.

Exhibition continues until 1 March 2017, more information here.

Written by Chris Kenny.