In case you missed it (I was tweeting about it A LOT last week), Cornell Library’s Digital Collections have just made available an amazing archive – the PJ Mode Collection – consisting of around 800 political maps that should be on the radar of anyone working on imperial and global history. They. Are. Awesome.
Here’s a sampling.
‘The Whole Story in a Nutshell!’ (1888) – Here’s one of my favorites for a lot of reasons. To give it some context, the so-called Great Debate of 1888 (that year’s presidential election) was centered around the future of US trade policy. The GOP was staunchly protectionist and Anglophobic at this time, and they feared the perceived influence of ‘Free Trade England’ on US politics. British free traders (in particular London’s Cobden Club, featured on the bottom left), were the main targets of paranoid Republican protectionist propaganda. Democratic President Grover Cleveland only added to the conspiracy theories when he filled his cabinet and advisors with US members of the Cobden Club. The pro-Harrison map does a vivid job of illustrating the GOP’s economic nationalism in contrast to Democratic free trade. For more on this, my book, The ‘Conspiracy’ of Free Trade, explores the conspiratorial reception of British free-trade ideas in Gilded Age America.
‘The Trouble in Cuba‘ (1895) – an 1895 cartoon from the pro-Republican political magazine Judge. The magazine was a longtime supporter of the GOP’s imperialism of economic nationalism. This cartoon depicts Uncle Sam as the USA, with Canada as a top-hat, about to gobble up ‘that morsel’ Cuba, an eery foreshadowing of what would happen in the years to come. Cuba became part of the US informal empire just a few years later in the wake of the Spanish-American War.
‘The Great Invasion of 19??‘ (1935) – Anglo-American ‘special relationship’? What special relationship? This jingoist map from 1935 suggests that the biggest existential threat facing the United States came from Britain and its nearby colonies.
‘The Growth of Russian Imperialism’ (1961) – Or how about this 1961 Sunday News map depicting the Soviet empire? The Soviets, ‘bristling with a great show of righteous indignation’, spilled a lot of ink condemning the Western capitalist powers for ‘practicing “imperialism” and “colonialism”‘. This map illustrates the enormous ‘expanse of territory directly and indirectly under the hammer and sickle’, and thus the ‘bitter irony’ and ‘blatant hypocrisy’ for the USSR ‘to shout “imperialism!”‘
Anyway, there are loads more where these came from. So a big thanks to Cornell Library’s digital archivists – and to all you historians out there, happy hunting.