The International Archives of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume XL-4/W3
13 Nov 2013
 | 13 Nov 2013

Borderlines: Maps and the spread of the Westphalian state from Europe to Asia Part One – The European Context

S. Pickering

Keywords: Borders, maps, Westphalia, state, Europe, Asia

Abstract. For researchers and students of International Relations (IR), one date looms larger than all others: 1648. The end of the Thirty Years War, formalised by the signing of the Treaties of Osnabrück and Münster, led to a period known as the 'Peace of Westphalia'. Westphalia represented a fundamental change in the power balance of European politics: instead of the Holy Roman Empire holding supreme authority, power would now rest with states themselves, manifested in terms of sovereignty, territory and equality. One of the chief ways in which these 'Westphalian' states would cement this authority was through the use of maps. Before 1648, there was little on a European map to indicate where one country ended and another one began. But after 1648, this all changes: these new Westphalian states are represented with bright colours and clearly marked boundaries, defining borders and becoming an important part in creating the state and justifying its sovereignty. The role which maps have played in the spread of the Westphalian state is only just beginning to be researched. Yet the limited efforts to date have all focussed on Europe. This is unfortunate, as today, while Europe has, according to some observers, moved into a stage in which Westphalia is no longer a useful model with which to understand the state and the ways in which it relates to sovereignty, government, power and the individual, the old Westphalian model of the state has more recently been exported all around the world. Many have contended that while the Westphalian state is no longer relevant to Europe, it was never relevant to the rest of the world. In existing work, the researcher has mapped the spread of the Westphalian state in the twentieth century, using Geographic Information Systems (GIS; see Pickering 2012). This paper, while complementary to the earlier research, will employ a quite different methodology. Having studied hundreds of European maps provided by European libraries, it is clear that the nature of cartography changes before and after 1648: political maps are seen as serving a different purpose (that of solidifying the state) and accordingly, they start using 'all the tricks of the cartographic trade – size of symbol, thickness of line, height of lettering, hatching and shading, the addition of color' (Harley 1989: 7). This paper will present findings on the representation of borders on European maps. However, it will do this with the aim of establishing the groundwork for a second project: to analyse the ways in which European maps have influenced how Asian borders are delimited, delineated and demarcated.