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Maps and the 20th Century: Drawing the Line

London, U.K.

Organisation: British Library

The British Library's major Autumn exhibition will explore the tumultuous history of the 20th century through maps, drawing on powerful, intriguing and surprising examples from the British Library’s world-class cartography collections and beyond.
Today we reveal a selection of Ministry of Defence maps being put on public display for the first time, which were used as part of official college exams in the 1950s and 1960s. These fascinating maps show fictional scenarios such as a nuclear explosion fall-out in Scotland and southern England reimagined as a battlefield, reflecting the political uncertainties of the 20th century.
Also revealed today is a little-known map of the USA produced by the Nazi government in 1940 showing percentages of first and second generation immigrants from middle and western Europe. Designed to enable officials in Joseph Goebbels' Propaganda Ministry to see at a glance where there were significant concentrations of people with German-Austrian backgrounds – and thus potential supporters - the map is evidence of the power of cartography during the 20th century as devices which were able to exercise considerable influence through their appearance of scientific objectivity.
The exhibition will also uncover the fascinating story of how maps left the hands of the few and became everyday objects for the first time in the 20th century. From the London A-Z, created out of a need for newcomers to navigate the city conveniently thanks to a wave of mass immigration in the early 20th century, to lesser-known political pocket atlases like the Plebs Atlas also revealed today, and the huge influence of maps like Winnie the Pooh’s Hundred Acre Wood which introduced millions of children to the concept of cartography for the first time.
Venue: British Library, 96 Euston Road, London, NW1 2DB
Contact: Tom Harper, Curator of Antiquarian Mapping
Catalogue availability: n.a.