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chapter two

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies

for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974
Brian Harley might be widely remembered today as a data. The historian's skill and craft lay in the ability to
theorist, or at least as an interpreter of theories, but most manipulate source materials. It was an approach that set
of his academic career was spent in the detailed empirical itself on principle against unwarranted assumptions and
study of maps and their makers. His decades of research, presuppositions as prejudicing and biasing the historian's
teaching, and writing produced an amazing body of choice and interpretation of evidence. Rather, the
detailed, careful, and rigorous history. That care and historian should first examine all of the evidence and
rigour was manifested in the attention that he consciously only then, if ever, construct explanations.
paid to methodological issues of interpreting evidence. G.R. Elton, a leading British historian of the mid-
The definitive texts on the subject had been written in the twentieth century, was one of the strictest advocates of
later nineteenth century, primarily by medievalists. Given an empiricist history. He espoused an especiaiiy incre-
Harley's own training at the University of Birmingham in mental approach, in which historical understanding of
the geography of medieval England, it was perhaps a given subject is recast only when a sufficient weight of
natural that he read and took to heart their strictures new material has been patiently unearthed by scholars
about how to read, evaluate, and interpret ancient labouring in the archives. He would, for example, have
documents. In the event, it was his application of the accepted a socio-economic explanation for the Reforma-
principles of evidentiary analysis to maps that would set tion in Europe as the cultural manifestation of an
him on the road to his later theoretical excursions. I emergent bourgeoisie in northern Europe, had such an
accordingly begin this chapter's analysis of Harley's argument been generated by the weight of evidence. But,
particuiar intellectual foundations with a brief overview in fact, Elton thought that such arguments were driven by
of the style of historical inquiry in which he was trained. (Marxist) theoretical positions that seemed to run
The prevailing approach to historical inquiry within counter to the already accumulated mass of evidence,
British academia in the decades directly following World which portrayed the Reformation as primarily a religious
War II was essentiaUy "empiricist" in character: historical phenomenon. He therefore could not agree with the
research was driven by its data. Licence was given for the socio-economic revisionism (Elton 1967, 37-38). Elton's
presentation of the data and for historical imagination, position was inherently conservative in two ways. Eirst, in
but the historian was constrained and guided by his his system, the scope of new research is defined by what
source material. British philosopher of history R.G. has already been done rather than by the asking of new
Collingwood could thus state as axiomatic that "all questions. Established arguments are thus reinforced,
history is the fruit of a more or less critical and scientific while new arguments are discouraged. Second, he
interpretation of evidence" (1965, 91). We might also advanced this argument in the later 1960s, when a new
consider the list of activities that defined the practice of generation of historians had already implemented a
history for eminent US historian Charles Beard: "exam- number of methodological and theoretical reforms. But
ining the documents of history, determining the authen- even then, one US historian could stiil observe that
ticity of records, selecting facts, ordering facts, drawing historians on both sides of the Atlantic displayed "a
inferences, exercising the art of constructive imagination, tendency not to reject" Elton's position "in an abstract
and writing history" (1946, 14). Beard's list makes it clear way but rather to accept it in principle and to forget it in
that the historian's task was to identify evidentiary practice." Most historians were not as overtly empiricist
sources, to interrogate them in a critical manner, and as Elton, but they nonetheless suffered from a "habitual
only then to construct interpretations induced from the reluctance" to pay attention to the organization of their

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Empiricist Foundations and Methodoiogies for Map Evaiuation, 1956-1974

work, so that they might as well have been avowedly historians and other scholars use maps as legitimate
empiricist (Fischer 1970, 7). sources of evidence for historical studies.
By no means were all historians pure empiricists before
the 1960s. While empiricist approaches to history have Historical Geography: Evaluating Maps
been espoused periodically since the 1830s, when Leopold
as Evidentiary Sources
von Ranke argued that the historian's task was to show
"how it really was" {wie es eigentlich gewesen), to the Combining the empiricist tradition of history and the
extent that source materials could provide information, regional paradigm of geography, British historical geo-
there have also been several parallel phases of theory- graphers had assumed the task of observing and exam-
driven histories. These include, most notably, histories ining each landscape as the best source of evidence for
engendered by environmental determinism and biological reconstructing its own history (Prince 2002; Williams
metaphors of evolution (Appleby, Hunt, and Jacob 1994; 2003). After 1950, however, and perhaps motivated by
Carr 1961, 7-30). After 1945, however, Anglo-American some experiments in the United States (Conzen 1993,
historians pursued a particularly strong brand of empiri- 37-47), British historical geography was reinvigorated by
cism in reaction to the ideological abuses perpetrated a methodological revolution in which documentary
against "history," especially by fascists regimes, in the source materials were increasingly used to supplement
years leading up to and during World War II. Post-war and corroborate the evidence derived from landscape
historians advocated a history that was utterly "scientific" observation. Expanding the range of evidentiary sources
because it dealt only with documented facts and with the would not necessarily make historical analyses more
induction of generalizations from those facts; they decried comprehensive, but it would grant them greater rigor and
"theory" as the last, fallacious resort of data-hungry and validity. H.C. Darby, the leading proponent of this new
disreputable scholars (Fischer 1970, ix-xii). historical geography, wrote in 1953 that it "is an article of
faith among us that field work is the essential basis of
An empiricist approach to history is perhaps particularly
geographical study . . . and [our] cry ... has quite
well suited to the study of early maps. The modern
properly been 'field work and more field work.' ... Yet
conception of "map," which is to say the conception held
I suggest that the new cry might well be 'field work is not
since the early nineteenth century (Edney 1999}, holds the
enough' " (1953, 9). Most famously. Darby's own research
prototypical map to be the large-scale topographic map in
gave a geographical perspective to medieval England
which the "real world is concentrated in model form"
based upon extensive analyses of the famous Domesday
(Board 1967, 672; emphasis added). Under this concep-
Book, the late-eleventh-century agricultural and demo-
tion, maps are understood to be essentially empiricist
graphic census of most of southern and
documents. They are statements of facts about the earth's
central England (Darby 1977, 375-84; see Coppock and
surface and have certainly been appreciated as such by
others 2002, 3-7; Kain and Delano Smith 2003, 380-81).
academic geographers (Kain and Delano Smith 2003,
378-87). Academic cartographers have been more open to
When he began his doctoral program in historical
the manner in which maps are necessarily selections of
geography at the University of Birmingham in 1955,
facts and so are open to the human and "artistic"
Harley took Darby's call to heart." He studied the effects
elements of subjectivity and bias, but they have none-
of two centuries of population and land-use change in
theless consistently maintained that maps nonetheless
medieval Warwickshire by contrasting the evidence of tbe
represent the essence of that surface (e.g., Eckert 1908;
Domesday Book with that of the Hundred Rolls of 1279.
Board 1967, 676-77; MacEachren 1995, 220). The
In doing so, he significantly recast British geography to
similarity of the rhetoric of post-war cartography to
encompass economic and social concerns in addition to
that of post-war history is striking: Anglo-American
its traditional themes of landscape evolution (Harley
cartographers reacted strongly to German propaganda
1958, 1960, 1964b). The dissertation itself was shaped in
maps, construing them as wilful distortions for ideologi-
large part by Harley's two mentors. Harry Thorpe,
cal ends, ln contrast, post-war cartographers established
Harley's dissertation advisor, trained a veritable cadre of
their own profession as having the purpose of portraying
historical geographers who sought to reconstruct the
the physical and human worlds in as accurate and as
regional landscapes of pre-industrial England (Harley
correct a manner as possible (see Pickles 1992; Pickles
1977; Slater 1982). In addition, Harley learned much from
2004, 37-46).' But such standards could not be
Rodney Hilton, an economic historian at Birmingham
guaranteed for maps made in the past. The particular
who was then researching medieval social structures and
issue that motivated Harley's approach to maps, there-
who advocated a Marxist approach that Paul Laxton
fore, was the extent to which the information content of
(1991) has identified as "chiming" with Harley's "own
particular maps was determined, influenced, or corrupted
political ideology." We should not make too much of this
by the various circumstances of map-making in the past.
congruence of personal politics and historical research.
Only by understanding that issue, he argued, could
Like other Marxist intellectuals in Britain at the time.

20 cartograpiiica (volume 40, issues 1-2)

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Hilton used his political beliefs to frame his research parish are scattered about in small clusters, here two or
questions, which he studied empirically, rather than three, there three or four. (15-15]
binding his studies within ideological straitjackets.
Maitland continued this discussion by illustrating
Although he achieved some success in medieval economic and discussing the examples provided by two details
history - including the publication of an important and from later states of first-edition Ordnance Survey maps of
"definitive" article that was still being cited more than 30 southern England, originally published in 1809 and 1830
years later (Harley 1958; see Lawton 1992, 211}'^ - Harley (Figure 6). These he called cartographic "fragments" that
was nonetheless unwilling to compete with historians in "will be more eloquent than would many paragraphs of
that arena (Campbell 1992b; Laxton 1991). He therefore written discourse" (1897, 15-16). Maitland further drew
set medieval history aside as soon as he was done with on August Meitzen's 1895 analysis of place names on the
the dissertation."* He turned instead to an entirely new topographic maps to suggest that the true villages were
area of research: the eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Anglo-Saxon settlements, whereas the hamlets were the
large-scale topographical surveys of England and Wales remains of "old Celtic arrangements" that predated the
(Figure 5). He embarked on this new direction under the Anglo-Saxon migrations of the sixth through eighth
combined and no doubt potent influence of three centuries. Maitland demonstrated the key aspects of map
individuals. Several obituary writers noted the influence use and the empiricist process: maps could be read
of his advisors. Thorpe was already "known for his carefully to generate data; by comparing and correlating
enthusiasm for the reading and recovery of past land- different data sets, by looking for patterns in the data, the
scapes through maps" (Laxton 1991} and was then researcher could derive explanations of the past.
compiling a carto-bibiography of the printed maps of "Towards theories of this kind," Maitland proclaimed,
Warwickshire with P.D.A. Harvey (Harvey and Thorpe "we are slowly winning our way" (Maitland 1897, 15-16;
1959), while it seems to have been Hilton who suggested see Meitzen 1895, 2:119fO.
Harley's first cartographic research project, on Christo-
pher Greenwood (Harley 1962; see Lawton 1992, 211; Such analyses clearly had great potential for the ever-
Campbell 1992b). Harley himself identified the major increasing number of historians who, after 1850, aban-
influence of a third mentor: R.A. Skehon, then super- doned political and diplomatic issues in favour of social
intendent of the British Museum's Map Room, now and morphological concerns. In the United States, |.K.
the British Library's Map Library (Harley 1987b, 1 n.; see Wright (1924) had pursued Maitland's arguments for the
Laxton 1991; Woodward 1992b, 120). Harley never worth of topographical maps in studying geographical
revealed the pressure these formidable figures may changes; he thought them particularly useful in studying
have applied, but his reasons for changing his research the effects wrought by industrialization. Again, in France
interests are nonetheless clear. Significantly, they related during the late 1920s and i930s, the economic and social
to the use of maps as evidentiary sources for historians history championed by Marc Bloch and Lucien Febvre in
and historical geographers. their journal Annales cVhistoire e'conomique et sociale
included the use of estate and cadastral maps for the
Large-scale maps made before about 1835 recorded many light they could shed on historical processes (e.g., Bloch
landscape features that would be destroyed, or at least 1929; see Fink 1989, 123-24, 154-57, 286; Friedman 1996,
significantly altered, by subsequent industrialization and 142^4, 136-39).^ Bloch also went one step further in
urban growth. Such maps could therefore be of great his appreciation of the historical worth of old maps,
importance in the new documentary approach to considering them to be more than repositories of
historical geography. Consider, for example, an early information; he recognized that they should also be
instance in which a historian interrogated maps as sources studied as integral components of the social milieu, as
of evidence. Reflecting in 1897 on the morphology of the when he specifically cited the role of estate mapping in the
English "'viir or 'town' of the later middle ages," F.W. seventeenth-century intensification of seigneurial control
Maitland wrote, in rural France (Bloch 1966, 131-33). Harley did not
cite this aspect of Bloch's work, but he would himself
But we are not entitled to make for ourselves any one
eventually come to make the same argument.
typical picture of the English vill. We are learning from the
ordnance map (that marvellous palimpsest, which under Dr. Maps were obviously of great significance for the
Meitzen's guidance we are beginning to decipher] that in all documentary shift in British historical geography after
probability we must keep at least two ^ e s before our 1950. Darby (1953, 9; 1962, 141; 2002, 53) quoted, at least
minds. On the one hand, there is what we might call the three times, Maitland's parenthetical comment that the
true village or nucleated village .... ln a country in which Ordnance Survey map is a "marvellous palimpsest, which
there are villages of this type the parish boundaries seem ... we are beginning to decipher" (see Coppock and
almost to draw themselves. On the other hand, we may others 2002, 18-19). Under Darby's influence, British
easily find a country in which there are few villages of this studies of past landscapes developed a methodology in
character. The houses which lie within the boundary of the which the distribution of important relict features

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Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

Figure 5. P.P. Burdett, A Survey of the County Palatine of Chester [londor). 1777); detail of the south-west sheet. This was just
one of the many eighteenth- and early-nineteenth-century, high-resolution maps of the English and Welsh counties, based on
topographical surveys, to which Harley turned after 1960. Harley and Laxton (1974) reproduced the map in facsimile.
Reproduced by permission of the British Library (maps K.9.2.2 TAB).

22 cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2)

Empiricist Foundations and Mettiodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

Ihe hordet betaatu OxfanUan aid Utrktktre.
ih* tjvT'icr bcttwvii ^lacysot attti OHOOII.

Figure 6. F.W. Maitland, "A Land of Villages/A Land of Hamlets" (1897, between 16 and 17). These are the "two little fragments
of 'the original one inch [1:63,360] ordnance map'" used by Maitland for a comparative study of medieval English rural
settlement morphology. The left detail is taken from sheet 13 (first published in 1830), the right from sheet 21 (first published in
1809). Maitland's use of late states of both sheets did not hamper his analysis, because difficulties in re-engraving such detailed
images meant that the landscape features - especially the large open fields in sheet 13 - were not updated with field
enclosures and other landscape changes. (The principal change to the plates, effected after the 1840s, was the superimposition
of railroads.) Maitland enlarged both details far reproduction, but by differing amounts. From the collection of the author.

(especially settlement morphologies, place names, moated tool for picking historical locks, should warn himself
sites, and boundaries) could be established from eight- that, though there has been permanence, there has also
eenth- and nineteenth-century maps; these distributions been change" (1897, 362; see also 381-83). That is to
could then be augmented and corrected against both field say, the pre-industrial landscape represented in eight-
observations and other contemporary documents (Darby eenth- and early-nineteenth-century maps would have
2002, 58-59; Hamshere 1987, 52}. undergone an indeterminate degree of change since
Despite historians' cartographic interests, Harley found the medieval period, change for which the historian
in the early 1960s that the methodologies for properly must somehow account. The issue for Maitland was,
using old maps as evidentiary sources had yet to be therefore, how to date each component of a cartographic
precisely defined. Maitland himself had been well aware landscape.
of this problem: "the student who is perusing the 'estate More generally, there was still much uncertainty as to how
map' and who is fascinated by the possession of a new to read maps. Gerald Crone (1967, 258) would later

carfographica (volume 40, issues 1-2) 23

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

suggest that some historians were inclined "to reject maps search tor further data. Ultimately, Turnock provided a
as evidence" because of the difficulties in their analysis more sophisticated understanding of his problem than
(quoted in Harley 1968b, 63, 73; Blakemore and Harley had he simply undertaken a literal interpretation of tbe
1980, 75; Harley 1981). This was, perhaps, an over- map (Turnock 1995, 204-6).
generalization. Those historians who have considered the On more intellectual rather than methodological grounds,
evidentiary use of maps have generally passed favourable Harley seems also to have been attracted to tbe agricultural
judgment, but they have invariably qualified their positive and industrial "revolutions" of the 1700s and 1800s
assessments by remarking on the need for proper because of their great historical significance. All of Britain
guidance in map interpretation. J.A. Williamson, who was then affected by profound social, economic, political,
has mistakenly been portrayed as being staunchly opposed and, above all, spatial changes that together produced the
to using maps for historical evidence,** wrote late in the modern landscape. By explicating the maps of the period,
1920s that "it is impossible to be dogmatic about the Harley would also be providing important data for a key
evidence of maps unless we know more than we period in British history. Finally, eighteenth- and nine-
commonly do about the intention and circumstances of teenth-century mapping had barely been touched by
those who drew them" (Williamson 1929, 279; quoted in historians (Harley 1967b); as a result, the subject must
Harley 1990b, 6; also in Andrews 2001, 7). Another have been highly attractive to any young scholar wishing
pragmatic reflection on the issue - which Harley {1987b, to carve out a research niche.
3; 1990b, 3) twice quoted - was that by |.H. Parry (1976): Harley thus turned his attention after 1959 to maps. He
"old maps are slippery witnesses. But where would soon began to produce what would develop into a
historians be without them?" Historians of cartography substantial corpus of historical studies. He tackled the
had done little by the early 1960s to present any solution economic and social conditions of commercial, large-scale
to this issue of trust. The only study of this topic then mapping in the English counties; the prizes offered by the
current - Skelton's short How to Look at Maps (1965) - Royal Society of Arts to promote county surveys; tbe
consisted of a series of brief analyses of the problems Ordnance Survey itself; and the nineteenth century
historians had gotten into with maps; it did not attempt transition from commercial to state sponsorship of
any formal statement of principles. large-scale map-making. He also published detailed
The most important reason for Harley's shift from analyses of particular maps in local history journals,
medieval settlement patterns to the large-scale surveys of where they could inform those historians most likely to be
the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was thus the need analysing the maps. As was tbe hallmark of Harley's
to establish the basic characteristics of those surveys so that empirical studies, all of these essays were thoroughly
their resultant maps might be properly read and so used by researched and well crafted.
other historians. In this respect, Hariey (1964c, 5; 1987c, Tbe key factor in this early research was that Harley dealt
18) also quoted Maitland (1897) on the promise of the with medium- and large-scale maps, which is to say, with
Ordnance Survey for historical enquiry. This project was to those maps that seem most closely tied to the earth's
form the core of his early career. A recent example will surface. His interest was in the flow of geographical data
suffice to demonstrate that Harley was not wrong in bis from the world to tbe map via the surveyor's instruments
belief that cartographic research will enable historical and the map-maker's symbolization schemas. His work
geographers to use old maps with greater confidence and on tbe cartographers themselves and on their working
correctness than could otherwise be attained. David conditions stemmed from his concern for understanding
Turnock (1995) used William Roy's map of Scotland how extraneous circumstances affected the data flow and
(surveyed between 1747 and 1755) as "an excellent thus the resultant maps. His methodology was strictly
indication of the extent of hamlet settlement" for part of empiricist: locate any and all archival records concerning
his study of Scotland's rural landscape (Figure 7). His each map-maker and his maps, then construct the
interpretation is based on the caveats of historians of narrative accordingly. His understanding of the maps
cartography about reading Roy's map. As a map intended was similarly empiricist: be understood them to be
for broad military purposes, it should not be taken to be a repositories of data and, therefore, subject to external
map of great precision. Roy himself called it "a grand forces that could distort their content.
military sketch" rather than "a very accurate map of a
country" (Roy 1785, 386-87). Thus, while each hamlet is In addition to his studies of the technological and
symbolized by irregular clusters of square-shaped dots institutional circumstances of eighteenth- and nine-
symbolizing buildings, Turnock realized that it "cannot be teenth-century surveyors and map makers, Harley also
assumed that the number of symbols or their precise pursued a program of examining maps for their historical-
arrangement is an accurate indication of tbe number of geographical information on past landscapes. These
buildings and tbe precise morpbology" of each hamlet. He evaluations appeared as introductions to full-size facsimile
was therefore required to qualify his conclusions and to reproductions of large-scale topographic maps by both
commercial and state map-makers. The purpose of the

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Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Ev3luation, 1956-1974

Figure 7. David Watson, William Roy, etal., [Military Survey of Scotland] (1747-1755); detail of the area around Inverness and
the Moray Firth. Concerning this map, see Skelton (1967); Harley and O'Donoghue [1975, ix-xiii); and Whittington and Gibson
[1986). Reproduced by permission of the British Library (maps C.9.b.26 sheet 4/2).

reproductions was to make the maps and their data Harley established their tone in his first major carto-
available to the non-cartographic historian (Blakemore graphic study (Harley 1962). This vi'ork studied the
and Harley 1980. 42-44; Skelton 1972, 76-81). Although culmination of the commercial county surveys in a great
most of these facsimiles were published in the 1970s, atlas of England and Wales at about one inch to a mile

cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2) 25

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

(1:63,360) that Christopher Greenwood attempted to them (Harley 1962, 41-46, Fig. 7). Greenwood's repre-
publish between 1817 and 1834, but which would sentation of land use was limited to only three categories
never be completed because of competition from the - parkland, heaths, and woodlands - of which only
mapping program of the Ordnance Survey. Most of parkland was shown in a comprehensive manner (Harley
Harley's monograph detailed the full range of Green- 1962, 45-48, Fig. 8). (Harley did not find this surprising,
wood's cartographic enterprise, but he also included a since the map's principal subscribers were tbe gentry who
chapter on the Worcestershire landscape in the early owned and bad created tbe parks.) As a representation of
nineteenth century as revealed in Greenwood's 1822 map the early industrial landscapes of Worcestershire, the map
of that county (Figure 8}. Harley appended a facsimile of was limited. Although Worcestershire's industrial regions
the map to the monograph. were still limited in extent, comparison of the map witb
The chapter on the Worcestershire landscape consisted of contemporary published accounts indicated that Green-
an extensive comparison of Greenwood's map against wood's surveyors bad not paid much attention to
other data sources, such as later Ordnance Survey maps industrial sites (Harley 1962, 48-51, Fig. 9 [reproduced
and contemporary documentation of social and economic as Figure 9]). Transportation routes were again biased
conditions. Of central importance were the several toward the interests of the gentry: rivers were shown, but
thematic maps constructed by Harley to show the not their navigability; canals and turnpikes, in which the
distribution of specific categories of land use extracted gentry bad invested, were, in contrast, "carefully
from Greenwood's map (see Figure 9). Harley stated the depicted" (Harley 1962, 51-54, Figs. 9-10).
purpose of the chapter thus: Harley restated his principles for his analysis of Green-
wood's map in his concluding summary: Greenwood's
It is certain, however, that as a record of the landscape map can be seen to be "not a single, but a composite
[Greenwood's] map has many defects: the accuracy of document to be cross checked against as many sources as
distances on the horizontal and the bearing of one place to possible and examined in the context of its period.
Although its value as historical evidence varies with the
another are inferior to those on the modern Ordnance Survey
features represented, its errors should not be regarded as
maps: the representation of relief is particularly ineffective -
an inventory of negligence, but as originating from varied
except for the main escarpments and the deepest of valleys,
factors" (1962, 54). He would repeat bis landscape
the terrain of Worcestershire would appear to be mono-
analyses in many of his later introductions to facsimiles
tonously flat - the visible archaeological remains of the
of large-scale maps, putting into practice tbe principles
county are entirely omitted; and little attempt has been made
that be preached to historians, historical geographers, and
to regularize the fonn of minor place names from literary historians of cartography.
sources .... The present chapter attempts to assess the
accuracy of these data, and to appraise the value of the map
as historical evidence in the context of the period. To this end Harley's Initial Methodological Statements
it will be reviewed as a factual report on certain of the social
and economic features of Worcestershire in the early ninc- The argument that Harley's underlying motive at the start
leenth century. (Harky 1962. 41) of his career was to improve the evidentiary use of old
maps by historians in general is borne out by a parallel
Harley thus implicitly recognized the distinction to series of essays that he published in The Amateur
be drawn between a map's geometrical accuracy, Historian (later renamed The Local Historian). Harley
which can be determined through cartometric processes, addressed the characteristics of the different types of
and its topographical accuracy, which should more large-scale maps that tbe general historian would
properly be assessed through qualitative processes. This encounter and need to interpret. A first series of tbree
last point would later be made explicit by one of Harley's essays, published in 1962-1963 and reprinted in book
students from this period (Laxton 1976). form in 1964, summarized early Ordnance Survey maps
The character of Harley's evaluation can be seen from his (Harley and Phillips 1964; see Oliver 1994, 6). A second
findings. Greenwood's representations of the boundaries series of six essays, published in 1967-1969 and
of the three levels of administrative territory - county, republished in book form in 1972, dealt witb commer-
hundred, and parish - were found to be unacceptable. cially published large-scale maps (Harley 1972a). Each
Harley did not lay much blame on Greenwood for this: article in tbe second series followed a standard format. An
the poor contemporary knowledge of the precise config- introductory description of the map type was followed by
uration of these highly complex boundaries was only just a list of the relevant bibliographies and carto-bibliogra-
becoming an issue for the central government in tbe early phies produced to date; a summary of the maps' political,
nineteenth century (see Fletcher 1999); furthermore, economic, and social contexts; and an account of the
maps' overall reputation for accuracy and of the manner
parish boundaries were so complex that the first super-
in which they could be evaluated. The purpose of all these
intendents of the Ordnance Survey had refused to map

26 cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2)

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation. 1956-1974


Figure 8. Christopher Greenwood, Mop of the County of Worcester, from Actual Survey made in the Years 1820 et 1821
(London: G. Pringle, Jr., and C. Greenwood, 1822); detail of north-west sheet. This map was the subject of Harley (1962).
Courtesy of the Geography and Map Division, Library of Congress (G5753 .W6 1821 .C2).

essays was to give historians some basic guidelines for studies of surveyors and cartographers, including the
using different maps as sources of information in an careful examination of seemingly peripheral and frag-
appropriate manner, perhaps even with some sophistica- mentary evidence, offered insight into their work and
tion, and without undue interpolation or unwarranted social conditions, factors that might influence map
extrapolation. content. As an example of this, Harley cited his own
The sequence of topics examined in the second series of study of the 1766 bankruptcy of the London map seller
papers for The Amateur/Local Historian consciously Thomas Jefferys (Harley 1966), which probably resulted
followed the scheme that Harley had just previously set from lefferys* overly ambitious investment in new county
out in a plea for renewed vigour in researching the surveys; Harley restated this essay's fundamental lesson as
detailed history of British cartography: "Uncultivated demonstrating that cartography's "pace of progress" did
Fields in the History of British Cartography," written in not depend solely upon technical knowledge but was
1966 (Harley 1967b).^ In this essay, Harley defined three necessarily affected by social circumstances and idiosyn-
interrelated methodological "fields" in which new cratic events (Harley 1967b, 9). A complete understanding
research was needed: bibliography, including carto- of the apparent errors in a map, as well as of the selection
bibliography; biography; and map evaluation. Bibliogra- of the information presented on a map, could thus come
phy was necessary to provide basic information about the only from an understanding of the cartographic process
range of maps available for content analysis. Biographical and its socio-economic conditions, as Harley would soon

cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2) 27

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

Coai ptts
Novigoble rivers
NovigoU* cands


Figure 9. J.B. Harley,"Worcestershire: Navigable Rivers and Canals in 1822," Figure 9 in Harley (1962, 49). Photograph courtesy
of the Osher Map Library and Smith Center for Cartographic Education, University of Southern Maine; reproduced by
permission of the Worcestershire Historical Society.

also demonstrate with respect to the Ordnance Survey Almost contemporary with the publication of "Unculti-
(Harley 1968a; 1969, xix}. Furthermore, the proper vated Fields" was Harley's presentation to the Interna-
selection of the techniques to be used in evaluating tional Conference on the History of Cartography, held in
maps could be made only with knowledge of the processes London in September 1967. The conference's theme was
by which the maps were created. Thus, both biblio- "Early Maps as Historical Evidence," and Harley served as
graphical and biographical research would underlie the the program secretary. He subsequently edited eight of the
evaluation of a map's content through both cartometric conference's 21 presentations for publication in Imago
analyses and more qualitative comparisons against other Mundi in 1968. Harley's own essay for the conference -
maps and documentary sources. In all this, Harley was at "The Evaluation of Early Maps: Towards a Methodology"
pains to stress that the "process of evaluating the accuracy (Harley 1968b) - explored the general principles to be
of maps is an ultimate goal of cartographical scholarship" followed in map analysis. This essay had its origins in
because it enables "scholars in other historical disciplines Harley's presentation to the congress of the International
to use cartographic evidence with confidence" (Harley Geographical Union in London in 1964, in which he had
1967b, 9). attempted to formalize the approach he was already

28 cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2)

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974-

Figure 10. Ordnance Survey, County Series (1:10,560), Devonshire CIX, SE, Newton Abbot [second edition of 1906; first
surveyed in 1885-1886); detail. Newton Abbot was Harley's home for 17 years, from 1969 to 1986; this map, with this detail,
wasthesubject of his lyrical exposition of the "map as biography" (Harley 1987c; also Laxton 1991). Courtesy of the Geography
and Map Division, Library of Congress [G5753 D4 SIO G71).

taking to the analysis of British county maps such as those textual evidence and argued that the established proce-
by Greenwood (Harley 1964a). Shortly thereafter, Skelton dures of textual criticism should therefore be applied to
had published his pioneering essay in map evaluation. maps. He actually presented his basic presuppositions as
Looking at an Early Map (1965). This short pamphlet was his conclusions. Although he admitted that map analysis
the transcript of a 1962 public lecture that, despite its does require some special knowledge on the part of the
chattiness and informality, remains essential reading for historian, Harley nonetheless concluded/presupposed that
anyone who wants to get evidence from maps. It maps do, in fact,
comprised a series of cautionary tales: moving briskly
through the flaws in several studies of pre-1600 maps, conform to the same procedures of analysis as do other
Skelton demonstrated how a failure to consider carefully historical sources .... Some of the principles applied to
all the processes by which the maps had been made the investigation of manuscripts apply equally to maps
leads inexorably to unwarranted conclusions. Hariey's which must be subjected to the same stages of extemal
particular purpose in 1967 was to combine the attempted and internal criticism. Maps may be a somewhat different
methodological rigor of his 1964 presentation with species of historical document, but many of the rules of
Skelton's topical scope (Harley 1968b, 62-63). thumb of the genus as a whole apply. (Harley 1968b, 73)

To construct a formal structure for the evidentiary The essay begins with references to several of the basic
analysis of all maps, Harley explicitly equated maps with texts on historical method, hut Harley left the best for last.

cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2) 29

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

In his final sentence he quoted Bloch (1953, 64): "maps, biographies of its makers - draughtsmen, labourers, printers
like other documents or material remains of the past, are and surveyors who worked to reproduce its image. Third,
passive objects, and ... 'will speak only when they are the map is a biography of the landscape it portrays;
properly questioned'" (Harley 1968b, 74). In other abiography, moreover - as F.W. Maitland [ 1897] put it - "more
words, maps should be subject to the same evidentiary eloquent than would be many paragraphs of written
rules as other source materials. They should be evaluated discourse." Fourth, and of most interest to me as collector, the
in terms of what they themselves reveal (internal map reciprocates my own biography. It is a rich vein
criticism) and what is revealed by situating them in of persona! history, and it gives a set of co-ordinates for the
their proper contexts (external criticism) (see Gottschalk map of memory. (1987c, 18)
1950, 118-71, for a useful summary).
With the exception of the fourth form of biography, this
The two aspects of evidentiary criticism - internal and statement obviously reincarnates Harley's older categories
external - correspond broadly to the three method- of evidentiary analysis, complete with conscious refer-
ological avenues that Hariey had suggested in "Unculti- ences to Darby's and Maitland's historical geography.
vated Fields." On the one hand, only comprehensive There is carto-bibliography, or the map's biography; the
carto-bibliography, supported in part by cartometry, can biographies of the map's makers; and the evaluation of
provide the solid database needed for dating, identifying, the map to reconstruct the land's biography. "It is the
and locating maps within given genres and so allow collective biographies of many such maps, suitably
comparative evaluations to be made of the maps generalized," Harley added, "that Igive] substance to
themselves; this constitutes internal criticism. On the the history of cartography" (1987c, 18).
other hand, biographical study will uncover the cartog-
rapher's intentions, the conditions of cartographic The fourth form of biography identified by Harley should
production, and the contemporary assessment of maps; not be understood as a unique idea required by the
this constitutes external criticism. At the root of both autobiographical mode of his essay. Instead, it should be
essays was Harley's pragmatic, empirical training. "All too seen as manifesting a further category of evidentiary
often," he warned, "a theoretical method is irrelevant to analysis, specifically that of map use. "The uniqueness of
the particular map, and there may be no substitute for the my particular sheet lies ... not in its [hypothetical]
judgement, intuition and common sense of the moment" rarity," Harley wrote, "but in the history of how it has
{1968b, 62). That is to say, each and every map is different been used, understood, and acted upon" (1987c, 18).
and so requires a different formulation of techniques and Harley introduced this theme into his thinking about
questions for its critical analysis, regardless of any theory. maps after 1974 as the logical outcome of his awareness,
first, of the cartographic communication models then
prevalent in academic cartography and, second, of the rise
Map Analysis: A Recurring Theme within Anglo-American historical geography of humanis-
tic studies that addressed the issue of what people in the
The application to maps of the established principles past knew about distant places. These developments are
of examining historical sources remained a key theme in examined in the following chapter. Harley's acceptance of
Harley's work throughout the 1970s. Indeed, it recurred the cartographic communication models, although only
in his writings even after 1980, when his theoretical turn in their broadest sense, and the broadening of his
diverted his overt attention toward issues of interpreta- intellectual awareness by humanistic geographers together
tion. In particular, Harley rehearsed the principles of map mark the beginning of the transition in his intel-
analysis in his introduction to David Buisseret's From lectual concerns from methodologies based on the
Sea Charts to Satellite Images (Harley 1990b), a work common sense of empiricism to a more theoretical
intended to demonstrate how maps could be used as a and conceptual approach to map history. The transition
resource by historians. This larger purpose obviously would not be completed, however, until about 1984.
required Harley's discussion of empirical methodologies.
The recurrence of evidentiary analysis in Harley's
Harley gave another late, and clear, statement of the bio-
writings, even after his theoretical turn in about 1980,
bibliographical approach to map evaluation in 1987,
indicates a final point whose importance cannot be
when he contributed an essay, "The Map as Biography,"
stressed too strongly. Previous commentators and obit-
to a special issue of The Map Collector. In explaining why
uary writers have followed a natural tendency to periodize
his favourite map was the "six-inch" (1:10,560) Ordnance
Hariey's research and publications. But it is a serious
Survey sheet covering Newton Abbot (Figure 10), where
mistake to assume that changes in what Harley wrote
he had lived from 1969 until 1986, Harley focused on its
indicate changes in the entirety of his thinking about
analysis. "Like any map," he wrote, this map was a
maps and their history. The theoretical tum of his writ-
biography in four senses. First, the map sheet itself has a ing did not mean that he stopped being interested in
biography as a physical object designed, crafted and used detailed, empirical studies of old maps. Rather, it meant
in a different age. Second, the map serves to link us to the that he increasingly focused on specific questions of

30 cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2)

Empiricist Foundations and Methodologies for Map Evaluation, 1956-1974

interpretation. In terms of basic empirical research, ever found in any map, however, I found in the contour
Harley continued to advocate the construction of com- maps of the U.S. Geolog[ical] Survey - nine sheets, without
prehensive carto-bibliographies and the careful sifting of any names, or political boundaries on the map - giving
archival materials. Taking such procedures for granted, he lakes, rivers, and contour lines only. It is a revelation. The
no longer dwelled on them in his later essays. same thing is published with county and state boundaries,
names of towns, rivers, etc. - But this destroys its value as
Notes showing the part played by physiographic conditions -
Address Mr. Gannett, U.S. Topographer, U.S. Geological
1. Herb (1997, 34-47) identified the paradox that the Survey, Washington, D.C. It is not for sale" (Jacobs 1968,
highly propagandized cartographic representation of 199). Turner also constructed thematic maps of past voting
Germany, especially vis-a-vis Poland, that pervaded all patterns, infrastructure, physiography, and so on and used
aspects of interwar German political discourse was at the them to formulate some of his theories (Jacobs 1968,
time justified by Eckert's (1921-1925) appeal to an objective 149-50, 156).
and truthful Kartenwissenschaft or "map science" that was 6. Williamson (1937, 7) made the powerful and ad
intended to reveal the "true" Germany. Despite what can be hominem aspersion that "maps are a dangerous type of
readily identified in hindsight as its overtly political agenda, evidence: too much study of them saps a man's critical
Eckert's text has been celebrated by Anglo-American faculty. Henry Harrisse knew as much as any man of the
academic cartographers after 1945 as a pioneering Renaissance maps, and one may see from his remarks
programmatic statement for an empiricist cartography. that as his learning increased his judgement deterio-
2. Darby (2002, pi. 8) reproduces a photograph of rated." Skelton (1965, 4) quoted Williamson's rather
Harley talking with Darby over dinner, on a field trip during gratuitous slander and qualified it by remarking that "it
the CUKANZU5 meeting in 1979; wine was, of course, is as a rule not 'too much study' but insufficient study
prominent on the table. that prevents a student from extracting from an early
3. A search in November 2004 of two online citation map the authentic kernel of fact that lies in it, and no
indexes - FirstSearch and 151 Web of Science - revealed more." Despite Skelton's qualification, it has become
three recent citations to Harley (1958): Raban (1988); common to quote only the first sentence of Williamson's
Campbell, Galloway, and Murphy (1992); and Dyer (1992). slander, thereby redirecting it against all historians:
4. One aspect of the dissertation would persist in Koeman (1968, 75) seems to have been the first to
Harley's subsequent research: he studied his own backyard. have done so, and was explicitly quoted by Harley
At each stage of his academic career in Britain, and to (1968b, 73). Harley (1978c, 79) and, in part, Blakemore
some extent in the United States, Harley published essays and Harley (1980, 75) rehearsed the quotation; Harley
on topics of specifically local interest in local history (1987b, 3) repeated the spirit of the aspersion without
journals. actually quoting Williamson. Hindle (1998, vii) repeated
the abbreviated statement, although without attribution,
5. A complete typology of map interpretation for
as a prelude to refuting it.
historical purposes must also inciude the use of topo-
graphical maps that are contemporaneous to the historian. 7. Indeed, Harley subsequently grouped his essays
Frederick Jackson Turner, for example, used the first USG5 for The Amateur/Local Historian (Harley 1972a) together
topographical quads to support his environmentally deter- with his two explicitly methodological essays (Harley
ministic history of the American frontier. As he wrote to 1967b, 1968b) in the third volume on "general and
Woodrow Wilson on 24 December 1894, "the most history I methodological essays" of his DLitt thesis (Harley 1985a).

cartographica (volume 40, issues 1-2)

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