Men with Boats

Map-making, mythmaking, and the Canadian wild

Maps tell stories: their lines and names forge relationships between people and the land, and among disparate communities; they assert beliefs as well as scientific facts; they not only record what is there, but they also dream places into existence. These dreams are especially visible on historical maps drawn long before satellite images filled in the unknown terrain, but even now, the idea of a completely knowable world is an illusion. For all the tales they tell about desire, power, and human journeys, maps also conceal a great deal. The apparent composure of these smooth and beautiful images belies the hardship and conflict behind the creation of their geographical knowledge and the delineation and defence of their territories.

Adam Shoalts’s latest book, A History of Canada in Ten Maps, unearths such stories. In it we encounter the dreams, illusions, ambitions, bonds, conflicts, and failures...