Atlas 3


An atlas can serve different purposes, and when evaluating a collection it should be noted what the main purpose is. It is also difficult to evaluate two atlases if they do not share a common thread. If we were to examine Hayes against a collection of Rand McNally Travel Atlas we could not use the same criteria. Both can offer historical information but the collections have different uses. For the sake of evaluation, I chose to take two similar collections and Hayes to find the positives and negatives of all three.

In addition to Derek Hayes’ Historical Atlas of the United States, I looked at Steven E. Woodworth’s The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War and Official Military Atlas of the Civil War by George B. Davis.

Woodworth and Hayes both offer artistic maps. However, where Hayes falls short in organization, Woodworth excels. The book is clearly organized in chronological order taking the reader on a journey of battles and events of the Civil War. Hayes tries to maintain some chronology, however he proves it can be difficult to illustrate different times across different places. Another area where Hayes falls short is the placement of the map images. Many are too small, or hard to read, others are spread across the binding and information is lost. Woodworth has solved this problem by utilizing a different style of binding. In places where the map does need to spread across 2 pages, different clusters are used, and the loss of information is minimal.

When comparing Hayes to Davis, criteria becomes more difficult to define. Davis is a collection of historical maps used in battle by the military. There are practically no artistic maps. There is also no interpretation or context. Hayes triumphs in this category by at least providing some context and information. In the case of Davis, the reader is left to draw their own inferences. Like Hayes, Davis has issues with image size. Several maps cross the binding and have a loss of information, which is disappointing considering the size of the book. All three books are of substantial size, but by far Davis is the biggest. With little to no text and a larger size it is surprising to see a loss of information due to poor lay out.

Hayes is what I would consider a coffee table book, not a historical reference book. It is something nice to look through, but too full of unfocused information.


3 thoughts on “Atlas

  • jefferson byrd

    I, personally, find military history to be incredibly dry. But I am wondering how someone in this class might use the kind of military maps you are talking about, ones that don’t seem to make an argument on their own, and use them as part of an original argument.

    • Danielle

      Military history is not my favorite either. I kind of fell into it.Battle stradegy, movement of troops during the war for context of other historiography, primary sources on map making in battle- and probably a dozen other ways I am not thinking of. Oh one more- architectural history of forts and/or battlements.

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