Jonathan Crowe

I’m a blogger and writer from Shawville, Quebec. I blog about maps at The Map Room, review books for AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review, and edit a fanzine called Ecdysis. More about me.

My Correct Views on Everything
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Three Books on WWII Maps

  1. Great Escapes: The Story of MI9’s Second World War Escape and Evasion Maps by Barbara Bond (Times Books, October 2015): history of the escape maps produced for prisoners of war. Pre-order at Amazon (Canada, U.K.).
  2. Mapping the Second World War by Peter Chasseaud (Collins, October 2015): a collection of historical maps; follow-up to Chasseaud’s 2013 book Mapping the First World War. Pre-order at Amazon (Canada, U.K.).

  3. Mapping the Second World War: The Key Battles of the European Theatre from Above by Michael Swift and Michael Sharpe (Conway Maritime Press, November 2014). Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.).

Previously: Two Books on WWI Maps.

History of Cartography Project’s Sixth Volume Now Out

History of Cartography Volume 6 (book covers)

The sixth volume of the massive History of Cartography Project, Cartography in the Twentieth Century, is now available. Edited by Mark Monmonier, it takes two physical volumes and nearly two thousand pages to cover mapmaking in the twentieth century — and lists for an eye-popping $500 (U.S.), though it’s a bit cheaper on Amazon.

Volumes one through three are available for free download. Volumes four and five, covering the European Enlightenment and the nineteenth century, respectively, are still in development.

Buy at Amazon (Canada, U.K.)

Previously: History of Cartography Project Co-Founder Dies.

‘1491’ Is Becoming a TV Series

Book cover: 1491 One of my favourite books, 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, is being made into a documentary TV series. The book’s author, Charles C. Mann, confirmed on Twitter last week that principal photography had begun. There isn’t a lot of information out there yet. It’s being written and directed by Barbara Hager, whose Aarow Entertainment will be co-producing it with Animiki See Digital Production. Eight one-hour episodes are being filmed this year for broadcast on APTN in 2016.

1491 is a book-length debunking of a lot of shibboleths about the pre-Columbian Americas. It paints a picture of a heavily populated hemisphere filled with sophisticated societies that transformed the landscape around them. A TV version offers an opportunity for more people to have their heads explode, like mine did in 2006. (See also my review of its sequel, 1493.) Via Kottke.

Western Canada Aviation Museum

Main hangar panorama

While I was in Winnipeg last month, I also visited the Western Canada Aviation Museum — for the first time, despite the fact that I’m, you know, from there. It’s situated in a hangar building in an industrial section just off the airport, and it’s just crammed with old planes and equipment, models, displays and the like. There’s a heavy focus on bush planes, but they’ve got everything from trainers to early airliners to jet fighters. I can’t compare its holdings to those at the Aviation and Space Museum in Ottawa because I haven’t been there since I was, oh, twelve or so (despite the fact that I’ve, you know, lived in the Ottawa area for fifteen years). Anyway, the photos are here.

Review: Barrington Atlas iPad App

Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (screenshot)

The Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World was a landmark in historical cartography: an atlas that pinpointed locations from classical antiquity on modern maps. The result of more than a decade’s work and $4.5 million in funding support (here’s the project website), the print version of the Barrington Atlas, which came out in 2000, was both enormous and expensive: larger than either the National Geographic or Times Comprehensive atlases,1 and priced at an eye-popping $395.

Now, as I mentioned earlier, there’s an iPad version of the Barrington Atlas, which (they say) contains the full content of the $395 print atlas and costs only $20 (iTunes link). On that basis it’s a no-brainer: $20 is better than $395. (95 percent off!) Classicists with iPads who don’t buy this app have something wrong with them. But how does it work as a map app?

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The Barrington Atlas Comes to the iPad

At a list price of $395, the print version of the Barrington Atlas of the Greek and Roman World (Princeton University Press, 2000), was more expensive than some iPads. Which makes the forthcoming iPad version of the Atlas, described in the announcement as “complete content of the classic reference work,” a veritable bargain at only $20.

In 102 interactive color maps, this app re-creates the entire world of the Greeks and Romans from the British Isles to the Indian subcontinent and deep into North Africa. Unrivaled for range, clarity, and detail, these custom-designed maps return the modern landscape to its ancient appearance, marking ancient names and features in accordance with modern scholarship and archaeological discoveries. Geographically, the maps span the territory of more than seventy-five modern countries. Chronologically, they extend from archaic Greece to the Late Roman Empire.

It’ll be available on November 21: plenty of time for me to get a new iPad Air by then (it works on all iPads except the original).

Previously: Barrington Atlas.

Two Books on WWI Maps

Two forthcoming books that deal with maps of the First World War: Peter Chasseaud’s Mapping the First World War: The Great War Through Maps from 1914-1918, out in a few weeks from Collins; and Simon Forty’s Mapping the First World War: Battlefields of the Great Conflict from Above, out some time next year from Conway Maritime Press.

Colonel Roosevelt

Book cover: Colonel Roosevelt Colonel Roosevelt, the concluding volume of Edmund Morris’s three-book biography of Theodore Roosevelt, covers Roosevelt’s post-presidential life. It says something about that rather short period — Roosevelt died only a decade after leaving office, at the age of sixty — that Morris was able to write 766 pages about it. Roosevelt’s African safari, post-presidential European tour, third-party presidential campaign (and assassination attempt) and expedition down the River of Doubt were all during that time. Roosevelt was clearly raging against the dying of the light, pushing himself forward despite failing health and increasing bodily decrepitude — back into politics, unsucessfully; trying to see action in the First World War, where he hoped to die an honourable death. In the end, the strenuous life finally caught up with him.

Thirty-one years separate the publication of Morris’s first volume of Roosevelt biography and this third volume. Taken as a whole, they are overwhelmingly impressive: Morris rarely comes across as hagiographical (which is to say that he calls Teddy on his bullshit), and he never fails at being interesting to read. Granted, Roosevelt was never dull. Still.

Buy at Amazon: hardcover, trade paperback, Kindlepublisher’s page

Previously: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt; Theodore Rex.

At the Diefenbunker


Yesterday we went to the Diefenbunker, that Cold War-era government bomb shelter turned museum, as part of a friend’s birthday party. It was cramped and claustrophobic — it was, after all, a real bomb shelter, not a museum. But it was also quite the time capsule: as much a memory of the mindset of the 1960s as it was a collection of its material culture. Here are my photos.

Theodore Rex

Theodore Rex (cover) Just finished Theodore Rex, the second volume in Edmund Morris’s three-book biography of Theodore Roosevelt. It covers Roosevelt’s presidency from the moment he was informed that his predecessor, William McKinley, had died to the point where his successor, William Howard Taft, was sworn in. Between those two points Roosevelt was his usual blur of activity and energy, though there are ominous signs of his impending physical burnout. Morris captures a good deal of the political intrigue, maneuvering and cajoling during Roosevelt’s tenure, along with the international statesmanship, from the Panama Canal to the Portsmouth Conference, from trustbusting to conservation. But I get the impression, throughout the bluster and bellicosity, that Roosevelt was essentially cautious, even timid, on many subjects. His position on race was problematic and constrained by public opinion — you get the impression he’d have gone farther if he thought he could get away with it — and then, inexplicably, came the Brownsville Affair. In the end, though, Roosevelt had a lot of fun being president, and it showed.

Buy at Amazon: hardcover, trade paperback, Kindlepublisher’s page

Previously: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt.

Does a Map Reveal Roanoke’s Fate?

A patch on a 16th-century map may suggest what happened to the lost colony of Roanoke. The map in question is the 1585 Virginea Pars map by John White. Based on the patch, which hides a symbol indicating a fort, researchers argue that the settlers may have moved westward and inland. AP coverage: ArtDaily, CBC, Washington Post. Via io9.


Columbus triggered the Little Ice Age. Malaria invented African slavery in the Americas, set the position of the Mason-Dixon line and helped the colonies win the American War of Independence. Silver from the New World wreaked havoc on the Chinese monetary system. Potatoes allowed Europe to take over the world.

Book cover: 1493 These are some of the provocative gems found in Charles C. Mann’s 1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created. It’s a sequel of sorts to 1491, a book on the Americas before their discovery by Europeans that impressed the hell out of me. It’s essentially a popular history of the Columbian Exchange — where peoples, species, and goods previously separated by geography came together in a new period some have dubbed the Homogocene — where, for example, Africans outnumbered Europeans in the Caribbean and a substantial population of Asians lived in 16th-century Mexico, and crops like tobacco, sugar, rubber, potatoes and maize expanded across the world. Globalization, Mann argues, is not a new thing: the global economy can be traced to post-conquest Mexico, where Andean silver not only crossed the Atlantic to Spain, but also the Pacific to the Philippines, where Spain traded it for Chinese silk and porcelain. The world knit itself together on the bounty of the Americas.

It’s by necessity an incomplete look. The Atlantic triangle gets short shrift, and cod is not once mentioned. A comprehensive survey of the Exchange would have to be textbook-superficial, or come in twenty volumes. Mann takes one thing at a time — rubber or sugar or malaria, or racial mixing, or escaped slave colonies like the black Seminoles — and goes into considerable depth. Neither is this a history of the period immediately after contact: the Conquistadors share time with modern-day rubber plantations in Indochina. What 1493 is, like 1491 before it, is an immensely stimulating and accessible read, hard to put down, provocative of much thought. Go read it.

Buy at (Canada, UK, Kindle).

The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt

Book cover: The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt by Edmund Morris Theodore Roosevelt was a fucking space alien. He had to have been. That’s the only conclusion I can draw having read The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, the engaging, readable and addictive first volume of Edmund Morris’s three-book biography of America’s youngest and funnest president. It covers the period from his birth to his ascension to the presidency upon the assassination of William McKinley.

Despite a fairly sickly childhood, the man had more energy than a whole platoon and produced more intellectual output, in more diverse fields, than some small colleges. He was a walking Tesla coil: you could power a small city with him. He bounced from task to task: state assemblyman, rancher, federal civil service commissioner, New York City Police commissioner, assistant navy secretary, rough rider, governor, vice president — rarely staying for more than a few years.

With a book that is 960 pages long in hardcover (I read the Kindle edition) it’s hard to complain about the gaps in the narrative — his family fades into the background as his career takes off, for example. Roosevelt led a life so full and interesting, I can see why it’s taken Morris three volumes to chronicle it. Worth reading.