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The Usage of Maps and Globes Centuries Ago, 30 Years Ago and Nowadays

Updated on October 25, 2014

Maps have come a long way since Christopher Columbus and the East India Trading Company, you could say they've been to the ends of the Earth... and you'd be right.

Map from the 15th century
Map from the 15th century

Centuries Ago

Mapping in the mid-15th century was primarily focused on establishing trade routes and formalizing borders, both very integral activities for Governments and companies alike. Arguably the most famous explorer who ever existed, Christopher Columbus pioneered the first ''great mapping'' of the New World under order from the Catholic Monarchs of Spain. As tools enabling the Spanish Inquisition to sweep over the new world, the Columbus maps lit a path to the exploitation and eventual colonization of an entirely new continent. Original maps in hand, the Generals of the Spanish Inquisition stood on new horizons, eyes gazing over yet more lands waiting to be immortalized on paper and stone.

Old Europe Map
Old Europe Map

Only those with the influence, power or money through trading routes or governments had access to these new printable maps. The "common folk" were deemed neither educated nor wealthy enough to be trusted with such tools. As such, maps were only found locked away in the captain's quarters on the most grand of trading ships or deep in the archives of government buildings. Some prolific businessmen and scholars owned exceedingly expensive "Globes," 3D interpretations of how modern cartographers saw the "known world." These globes were few and far between, more a symbol of one's influence and wealth in the perceived world.

The 19th Century

Drawing closer to the 20th century, maps became increasingly available to a more diverse section of the population as maps became less monopolistic and more informative, shifting from documenting positions of power, to reinforcing national identity. Many maps were even altered, most famously of England, being given a "central" position on many maps and even making England appear larger than it actually was in an attempt to boost its implied importance in the world. As tools of propaganda, governments made use of maps in schools and even workplaces to ensure their populace knew its importance in the world stage and where their perceived "enemies" were.

Late 20th Century

As wartime propaganda died down and the boom of the late 20th century swept the world, a new drive for education and enlightenment of the masses began. Soon maps of the world and detailed maps of individual countries were widely available in bookstores and the working man could furnish his office with a complete map of the world, attained though centuries of trade, war and exploration. Every school had its own interactive Globe that classmates could take turns finding their place among different countries they'd only read about. With massive industrial printing now going global, maps in book form soon took to the shelves, making them far more portable and accessible when traveling.

Maps Today
Maps Today


Today almost everything we know, do and use is mapped. GPS has changed the very perception of how maps are used. No longer are maps solely used to find your general location, but now you can pinpoint exactly where you are in relation to the entire planet using almost any kind of mobile device. There are vast numbers of documented maps freely available on the internet for order or simply to download or view. You use maps while finding the way to the subway, while finding out where you're going on the subway and tracking the map of your GPS tagged cat's movements while sitting on the subway. Maps are intrinsic with our everyday activities, more so than you may think.

Replica Globe
Replica Globe

Old Maps and Globes Today

What happened to the trusty globe and classic fabric map you ask? Not everything has been sucked into cyberspace. There are many original crafted maps and globes whose antique value enshrines them on study walls as decorative mosaics of a time past. Mighty marble globes standing as stoic beacons of the collective works of humanity through the ages, finding their place on that very globe. Some would say these pieces are valuable. I disagree. They are priceless.


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    • eurousamedia profile image

      Andrew Schlogel 3 years ago from San Francisco, CA

      Thank you Zackary! I love old maps, whenever I "read" one I feel I am time traveling. I am happy you enjoyed the article!

    • Zackary Lynch profile image

      Zack lynch 3 years ago from Southern Oregon

      Cool hub! It's fascinating how detailed some of the maps are from ancient times considering the equipment and resources they had available. I enjoyed reading.