Historians are most accustomed to dealing with maps as basic topographical or political descriptions, but maps can be read as evidence in their own right. This course sets out to accomplish three goals: to introduce students to the idea of spatial relationships as historical evidence, Download
HIST 615 Syllabus PDF
to impart the skills to make a reasonably sophisticated map, and to experiment with the application of 3-D to historical visualization and reconstruction. The course, therefore, is both a traditional history and applied digital history course. While ArcView is the standard GIS software application and very useful to historians, those interested in learning ArcView are encouraged to consult the Geography Department’s offerings.

The course will begin by rethinking maps (loosely defined as any spatial arrangement), proceed to examining maps as evidence, and extend its inquiry to analyzing how maps can be used by historians. It will carry on by ferreting out maps suitable for digital adaptation and, thence, to creating a well-designed map in a vector- based application (Illustrator). The course will then turn to a terrain generator (Natural Scenery Designer) and work on a “rubber- sheeting” project. Finally, participants will engage in a historical reconstruction using a combination of one or more of the following: an architectural program (SketchUp), Sanborn Insurance maps, Google Earth, or bird’s-eye view maps, among others.

This course is designed for students in either traditional or applied tracks (New Media) in the history graduate program, graduate students in allied disciplines, or advanced undergraduates. Graduate students, for example, who contemplate using maps in their dissertation work, will find the course extremely helpful. Although the course has a heavy computer component, it is intended for those with intermediate computer skills and assumes no prior knowledge of any of the software applications required for the course. Students who have completed Clio 2 (HIST 697-History & New Media), a graduate GIS or cartography course, or who possess a solid computer background will find their skills equal to the demands of the course.


The following books are required for the course. They are available in the Campus Bookstore or from other vendors far and wide. These texts, essentially, demonstrate the use the various documents that we will be looking at in class. Read them quickly as examples of how scholars have thought about maps and what can be done with maps. We will discuss some of the books briefly, some in depth, and some not at all, but they all should be read either in toto or in small bites.

Note that I'm recommending additional texts: John Krygier, Making Maps: A Visual Guide to Map Design for GIS and Adobe Creative Team, Adobe Illustrator CS5 Classroom in a Book. These books are not required, but some of you may find them helpful. They are essentially DIY books for mapmakers who are not necessarily geographers or GIS mavens.


Blogs have become an important element on the web and something that you might have already done in another course. Rather than have a group blog or design a blog from the ground up, you’ll be doing something a bit different. Because you’ll need a blog that has a photo album, I’ll recommend two options. (Why not one of the free services you ask? Because I’ve experienced enormous problems with downtime, trolls, and spam in previous semesters with free services. It’s just not worth the headache.)

You can obtain a Plus-level subscription to Typepad, a blog. The cost is $8.95 per month or roughly $27.00 for the semester (the cost of a modest textbook). The best thing to do is sign up for a free trial; this will furnish you with a two week's free service. At the end of the semester, you can cancel your subscription. Or, you may discover that you like blogging so much that you retain your subscription. The advantages of TypePad are ease of use and the option to customize your design. No muss, no fuss. Alternatively, you can use WordPress. Wordpress is free, and several services offer automatic installation. In addition, WordPress itself offers blogs from its own site.


History & Cartography has some special software requirements. Some of you are able to get your employer to buy the software, given enough time. Yes, I know more dollars, but no one ever said that digital history was cheap. I’ve tried to make the course as inexpensive as possible. Here is what you will need for software with their educational prices (thereabouts): Adobe Illustrator CC , Adobe Photoshop CC OR Adobe Photoshop Elements 11.0 (Win-$69.00) or Adobe Photoshop Elements 8.0 (Mac-$69.00; required or consistent access); Natural Scene Designer (Required $79; several websites discuss free tools that perform the same functions as NSD, but you can also pull out your hair in tufts); Google SketchUp (FREE) or and Google Earth (FREE).

Colored Pencil Set (Required $12–$20) A small set on the order of Faber-Castell Polychromos Pencils would be fine. If you go with another set, be sure that it includes colors that are commonly found on maps. Some of you might also find Bryce ($99.00) and Vue d’Esprit (FREE) useful and fun, but these are not required.

Consistent access means that you can use the software when you need to. This may mean working at your office or some other location. For those thinking about doing more work in digital history, you might want to think about getting one of the Adobe Packages.