22 - Europe: core and peripheries
From a young age, Frank was fascinated by maps and atlases, and the stories they contained. Finding his birthplace on the map in the endpapers of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings only increased his interest in the mystery and message of maps.
While pursuing a career in journalism, Frank started a blog called Strange Maps, as a repository for the weird and wonderful cartography he found hidden in books, posing as everyday objects and (of course) floating around the Internet.
"Each map tells a story, but the stories told by your standard atlas for school or reference are limited and literal: they show only the most practical side of the world, its geography and its political divisions. Strange Maps aims to collect and comment on maps that do everything but that - maps that show the world from a different angle".
A remit that wide allows for a steady, varied diet of maps: Frank has been writing about strange maps since 2006, published a book on the subject in 2009 and joined Big Think in 2010. Readers send in new material daily, and he keeps bumping in to cartography that is delightfully obscure, amazingly beautiful, shockingly partisan, and more.
Post #12 shows a map identifying three core areas of Europe with transition zones in between. This map here has a different approach to European cultural diversity.
On the one hand, it posits a contiguous cultural core – roughly correspondent, coincidentally with Charlemagne’s empire (plus a swathe of England and Scandinavia) – and with the original European Community (the three Benelux countries, West Germany, France and Italy).
On the other hand, it describes some parts of Europe as less ‘European’ than this core by quoting several writers, artists and thinkers (from the ‘core’, obviously):
Ireland: “That savage nation” (Edmund Spenser)
Brittany: “Wild and primitive” (Paul Gauguin); “Frankly pagan” (J. Cameron)
Spain: “Africa begins at the Pyrennees” (Alexandre Dumas); “Outside the southern door of Europe proper” (James Michener)
Corsica: “Still savages” (Alexandre Dumas)
Sardinia: “Rejected European civilisation” (P. Nichols)
Sicily: “Stagnant and backward” (L. Barzini)
Mezzogiorno (southern Italy): (L. Barzini)
Albania: “Savage character” (Lord Byron)
Bulgaria: “A mongrel east” (A. Symons)
Greece: “All the Turkish vices” (Lord Byron)
Istanbul: “Damn her, the whore! Sleeping with the Turks” (A. Kazantzakis)
Cyprus: “East in west and west in east” (P. Geddes)
Ukraine: “A decided Oriental kink in their brains” (British Foreign Office)
Poland: “Advanced outpost of Western civilisation” (Joseph Conrad)
Russia: “Scratch a Russian and you will wound a Tartar” (Napoleon)
Finland: “Fierce and uncivilised” (M. Pitts)
Sadly, as I’ve downloaded this map a long time ago and (again) didn’t make a note of the origin, I can’t say much about the context. However, the use of highlighter seems to indicate that it was made in a school environment…
The ‘present core’ of Europe (“Where defining traits are strongest”) is highlighted in red. Green is used to highlight some boundaries of these traits – and it all seems to boil down to the limits of Christianity versus Islam and paganism (Arab rule in Spain, Turkish rule in the Balkans, Christianity in the north about 1030, Christianity in the south at present) – making the point that ‘European’ actually is synonymous with ‘Christian’. Which is a controversial point – recall the debate about the EU Constitution not mentioning Christianity as a ‘core European trait’.
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