The Making of National Identity: Maps in Tudor England

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This article seeks to analyze the formation of national identity in Tudor England through the examination of English maps. Tudor England witnessed the "Henrician Cartographic Revolution" in which King Henry Ⅷ initiated the manufacture of a large number of maps for the use of administration and national defense. By 1600 maps were essential to a wide variety of professions, and some scholars argue that after 1550 most maps, charts, and plans were produced not for the use of the Crown but for the interest of various groups in society.
Throughout the 16th century, however, the Crown and their governments played the major role of paymasters for the skilled mapmakers. Maps promoted national identity as well as were used in the defense of the realm and administration. Most notably, under the patronage and provision of Queen Elizabeth and his chief councillor Lord Burghley, Christopher Saxton produced the Great Atlas of the Counties of England and Wales (1579). His atlas marked a new level of cartographic achievement and at the same time determined the visual image of England and of its constituent parts.
Some scholars suggested that the booming of estate-maps and the county as the unit in such maps as Atlas revealed the fact that there existed the strong localism. The emergence of estate-maps, however, did not necessarily represent the conflict between the local and the central and the discrepancy between the interest of the private map commissioners and that of the government or the Crown. Also, the county as the unit of survey was ordered by the central government, because it was the basic unit of local administration. The general maps of England, which contributed to formulating national identity in visual image most efficiently, were produced for, and under the patronage of, a central executive increasingly drawn to intervene in the affairs of the localities.
Queen Elizabeth, who actively participated in making her own image, included maps of England in a number of her portraits. Utilizing these maps that represented the physical territory of England the Queen intended to portray herself as the symbolic core of a single political unit. This centralized realm where resided the Crown on the top constituted the distinct characteristic of national identity in Tudor England. Challenging Whiggish interpretations that place the English people as the core agency of making national identity, this paper argues that the national identity of Tudor England was rather an enterprise of the Crowns and their governments.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)207-235
Number of pages29
JournalThe Korean Historical Review
Publication statusPublished - 2005 Jun

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • History


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