Last week I was thinking about the importance of images to tell a story. This week, thanks to a trip Aberystwyth and a major train incident outside of Welshpool, my attention has turned to the role of maps.
I’ve never been keen on mapping my travels. My experience of compiling maps for a certain leading guidebook publisher has seen to that.
But a visit to Small World, a new exhibition about the history of travel in Wales at the National Library of Wales, cast the importance of mapping to our understanding of Wales in a new light.
It shows how travel in Wales developed hand in hand with the early artistic movement and the first wave of industrialisation.
You can read about the exhibition from the Library’s blog here.
Having taken in the exhibition by day, I stayed on that night for a talk by Mike Parker, whose book Neighbours From Hall? is published by local imprint, Y Lolfla.
Parker highlighted how maps are used as a propaganda tool, citing the Readers’ Digest Atlas of Places of Notable Birth (1965) as the “UKIP map of Britain.”
By showing us a series of maps through the ages, we saw how the Welsh language, culture and political influence was denigrated by early cartographers – ever since the first ever map of Wales, dating from 1573.
But as Welsh pride and identity has flourished, so has its depiction in maps from around the world. Maps, it seems, are a sure-fire way to enforce national stereotypes, but also a means to bolster national pride.
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Finally, want to know the best map of Wales according to self-confessed map addict, Mike Parker?
The National Milk Bar chain’s map, highlighting their branches across Wales.
It’s a little bit of hiraeth we’ll return to another time.