Mapping History HIS 317: Cartography from the early modern to the digital age

Spring 2020

Time: 12:30-1:45pm MW

MW Room: DHHC 215

INSTRUCTOR: Dr. Adam Sundberg


OFFICE HOURS: 2pm – 4pm MW and by appointment

EMAIL: adamsundberg@creighton.edu


Recommended purchase: Cynthia Brewer, Designed Maps: A Sourcebook for GIS Users (ESRI Press, 2008)

Map of the city of Omaha, 1883 (Omaha Public Library)


This course is divided into four parts.

  • Part One (Mapping, Environments, and History) An introduction to the key terminology and themes in the history of cartography including: the mapping impulse, visualizing change across space and time, and the global diversity of cartographic traditions.
  • Part Two (Mapping Invisible Environments) focuses on thematic mapping, the rise of statistics, and the use of maps to evaluate the various ways maps have been used to interpret, reify, or enforce natural and social differentiation, including racial territories..
  • Part Three (Mapping Disaster Environments) builds on lessons from previous course sections to evaluate the various ways maps can chart the causes and consequences of nature-induced disasters.
  • Part Four (Mapping the Lived Environment) expands the scope of our analysis to consider the methods and consequences of mapping the earth on global and local scales in the 21st century and considers the democratization and implications of surveillance culture.

Core & Mission Fit

Mapping is an art, a science, and a cultural practice. This course not only surveys the history of cartography from the fifteenth century to the present, but also challenges students to integrate the lessons of historical mapping and analysis into original mapping products using geospatial software. It introduces students to the broad themes in the production, meaning, and implications of mapping and applies them to the history of humanity’s relationship with the environment. How does mapping represent, shape, or distort our surroundings? What role has cartography played in defining and controlling people and environments and how have these themes changed across time? How has the widespread availability of digital mapping applications challenged or reinforced these historic trends? Issues of data reliability, privacy and security (of the individual and the state), and equity are explicitly addressed in these questions and each have been central themes in the history of cartography since the early modern period. They will also create and critique their own digital maps using geographic information systems. Students will thus participate in the map-making tradition, informed by technical skills gained in the course as well as the capacity to critically engage their historical and ethical implications.

Core Learning Outcomes

Students will use technology effectively for research, analysis, communication, and collaborative work.

Students will recognize that technology and the digitization of knowledge are powerful tools and will identify potential dangers concerning reliability, privacy, security, and equity

Part I. Mapping, Environments, and History

Week 1 – Mapping as Geography

Wed (Jan 15)

Syllabus - Introduction

Week 2 - Mapping History as Geography-

Mon (Jan 20) - Mapping History as Geography

Wed (Jan 22) - Storymapping

Post story mapping assignment to blog

Week 3 – Maps as Metaphor

Mon (Jan 27)

Blog Due - Email Dr. Sundberg url from DavidRumsey of your Gigapixel Map

Wed (Jan 29)

Part II. Mapping Invisible Environments

Week 4 – Mapping the Geophysical World

Mon (Feb 3)

Blog Due

Wed (Feb 5)

Week 5 – Mapping Climate and Colonialism

Mon (Feb 10)

Blog Due

Wed (Feb 12)

Week 6 – Mapping Empire and Ethnography

Mon (Feb 17)

Blog Due

Wed (Feb 19)

Week 7 – Mapping Segregation

Mon (Feb 24)

Blog Due

Wed (Feb 26)

Sat (Feb 29)

Part III. - Mapping Disaster Environments

Week 8 – Disease Environments

Mon (Mar 2)

Blog Due

Wed (Mar 4)


Week 9 – Flooding

Mon (Mar 16)

Wed (Mar 18)

Week 10 – Flooding Pt II

Mon (Mar 23)

Present Storymaps

Wed (Mar 21)


Part IV - Mapping the Lived Environment

Week 11 - Participatory Mapping and Maps as Surveillance

Mon (Mar 30) - Guest Lecture - Dr. Guy McHendry - Carto and Surveillance

Wed (Apr 1)

Blog covering Carto Activity and Dr. McHendry's Lecture due before Friday at 12:30pm

April 3- Last Day to Withdraw with a "W"

Week 12 – Work Week

Mon (Apr 6)

Wed (Apr 8)

Week 13 – Work Week

Mon (Apr 13)


Wed (Apr 15)


Week 14 – Creating your Map

Mon (Apr 20) -

Blog Due

Wed (April 22)


Week 15 – Work Week/Presentations

Mon (Apr 24) - Work Day (finishing touches)

Wed (Apr 26) - Final Presentations - Groups 1-3

Week 16 – Finals Week - Class Presentations

See Creighton Finals Schedule for Date/Time - Final Presentations - Groups 4-7

Complete Peer Reviews of Student Projects by final date of semester


Your grade will be determined based on your performance during in-class participation as well as on exams and papers. A total of 1050 points are possible in this course, distributed as follows:

Final Project - 400 pts

Blog Posts – 350 pts

Participation – 300 pts

Final Project

The final project is worth thirty percent of the course grade and is the capstone of the course. The final project is divided into 6 stages. Students will work in teams of 3-4 people and will submit group work to the course blog.

  • Stage 1. Research Question – (25 pts) The first stage of the project is to choose a suitable historical question about the legacy of redlining in Omaha. You and your group will develop your question from one of the following themes: demographic change; racial violence in Omaha; streetcars and suburbanization; automobiles and highways; lead pollution in Omaha; flooding, insurance, and disasters; crime and policing; home loans and housing policy; schools & education
  • Good historical questions are important because they ground good histories AND good maps. Your map needs to have a goal — a question that requires an answer. One delegate of the group will submit a jointly-written short two-paragraph response to the course blog that lays out the research question and a brief historical context. Ex. How has North Omaha's demographic makeup changed over time? Do redlining boundaries inform lead hazards? Which regions of Omaha have greatest/least access to home loans and how has that changed over time? All questions must be historical and spatial.
  • Stage 2. Project Proposal – (50 pts) This one page proposal lays out 1. The scope of the project 2. Possible sources (i.e. digital maps, online data, historical data) that will be employed in a digital mapping product 3. A clear explanation of the value of this project as a piece of scholarship.
  • Stage 3. Data Collection –(50 pts) students must submit an “annotated” list of 10 potential sources of data (digital or physical) as well as 10 scholarly secondary sources that inform the historical meaning of the project.
  • Stage 4. "Rough Draft" (100 pts) - Each group will bring a working copy of their digital map. The maps need not be 100% complete, but students should also be prepared to explain how they plan to improve/enrich the map before the end of the semester. The more complete the map, the better feedback they will be able to receive.
  • Stage 5. Presentation – (150 pts) students will present their work in class. You may use Powerpoint, Prezi, or a web mapping application. The presentation should last 20-30 minutes and cover the historical context of the project, its question, use of data, and conclusions.
  • Stage 6. Criticism - (25 pts) All members of the course will conduct peer review of final mapping projects using skills and knowledge developed during the course. Student will post their criticisms online via the course blog
Bird's-eye-view of the business district of Chicago, 1898

Course Blog:

All information (including this syllabus) will be available via the course blog. All readings, responses, and assignments will be posted to this course blog as well. Students are expected to read the weekly assignment, critique the map(s), and post their responses to the blog every Monday prior to class. Responses can integrate readings from previous weeks and are required to include perspectives from the current week. The core of the response should focus on the primary source material, especially the weekly map(s). Practicum exercises will also be posted to the blog. The blog is a living document that shows the development of the course and student projects. Blogging is a flexible format that facilitates a wide range of media and students are encouraged to integrate visual and digital sources into their assigned responses and projects. Students are expected to treat writing assignments as professional development and all standards of academic writing will apply in the blog post as well.

Tokyo Bus Map, c. 1950.


The participation grade applies to in-class discussion of the readings and maps and the practicums. All readings must be completed by the assigned date on the syllabus (Mondays, unless otherwise stated). All practicums must be completed by the end of the course. A sizable percentage of the final grade will depends on the frequency and quality of your comments in class. This requires reading the material and formulating ideas and opinions before your arrive at class.

Grading Scale:

  • A: 94-100
  • A-: 90-93
  • B+: 87-89
  • B: 84-86
  • B-: 80-83
  • C+: 77-79
  • C: 74-76
  • C-: 70-73
  • D: 69-60
  • F: 59 and below


Audio and/or video recordings of lectures and discussion are prohibited without express consent of the instructor


Assignments will be deducted 1/2 of a letter grade for each 24-hour period they are late.


Education demands your active involvement, therefore daily attendance is required. I will keep track of attendance at the beginning of every class period. One absence will be excused per student, regardless of reason. For every subsequent absence, students will have 2% deducted from their final grade. Exceptions to this rule will be very limited and only granted in circumstances left up to the discretion of the instructor.


Academic misconduct will not be tolerated. This includes plagiarism. Do not attempt to use others works without proper citation. Acknowledge the source material for all of your work. In the event of plagiarism, the student will receive zero points for the assignment. While plagiarism is the most common form of academic misconduct, it also extends to the disruption of class, threatening behavior, cheating or misrepresentation.

Emergency Cancellation Policy

In the event of a disruption of normal classroom activities due to emergencies such as a disease outbreak the format for this course may be modified to enable completion of the course. In that event, you will be provided an addendum to this syllabus that will supersede this version.

Designated Technology:

  • Students will use technology effectively for research, analysis, communication, and collaborative work.
  • Students will recognize that technology and the digitization of knowledge are powerful tools and will identify potential dangers concerning reliability, privacy, security, and equity
Mercator Hondius Map of the Arctic, 1606


If you have a disability for which you need an accommodation, you are encouraged to contact both your instructor and the Office of Disability Accommodations located in the Old Gym, Room 408 (402-280-2166) as early as possible in the semester.


In the event that inclement weather forces the university to close, the course schedule will be adapted at the discretion of the instructor. All changes to the syllabus (and notice of class cancellations) will come via BlueLine.


Good writing is a skill that requires practice, but also guidance. Peer-review is acceptable as long as the authors create products that are demonstrably their own work. (see plagiarism and academic misconduct above). Also, feel free to stop by my office hours if you would like help. The Creighton Writing Center is the best option and an underutilized resource. You can schedule appointments at the Writing Center in Creighton Hall 136.

The Histomap of Evolution, 1942
Created By
Adam Sundberg


[Plattegrond van Groningen], 1700. http://irs.ub.rug.nl/ppn/11002236X Lewis Evans, A general map of the middle British colonies in America, 1755. https://www.loc.gov/item/74693076/ Alexander von Humboldt, Geography of Plants, 1805. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/7e/Zentralbibliothek_Z%C3%BCrich_-_Ideen_zu_einer_Geographie_der_Pflanzen_nebst_einem_Naturgem%C3%A4lde_der_Tropenl%C3%A4nder_-_000012142.jpg Johann Baptiste Homann, Geographische Vorstellung der jämmerlichen WASSER-FLUTT in NIEDERTEUTSCHLAND, welche den 25.Dec. Ao. 1717, in der heiligen Christ-Nacht, mit unzählichen Schaden und Verlust vieler tausend Menschen einen großen theil derer Hertzogth. HOLSTEIN und BREMEN, die Grafsch. OLDENBURG, FRISLANDT, GRÖNINGEN und NORT-HOLLAND überschwemmet hat. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/6/6d/Weihnachtsflut61.jpg Muhammad Al-Idrisi, Tabula Rogeriana, 1154. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a1/TabulaRogeriana_upside-down.jpg Bird's-eye-view of the business district of Chicago, 1898. https://www.loc.gov/item/75693212/ Tokyo Bus Map, c. 1950. http://www.oldtokyo.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/tokyo-bus-map.jpg Gerard Mercator, Septentrionalium Terrarum description, 1606. https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/92/1606_Mercator_Hondius_Map_of_the_Arctic_%28First_Map_of_the_North_Pole%29_-_Geographicus_-_NorthPole-mercator-1606.jpg