Skip to Main Content
Have library access? Log in through your library
Mappae Mundi

Mappae Mundi: Humans and their Habitats in a Long-Term Socio-Ecological Perspective, Myths, Maps and Models

Bert de Vries
Johan Goudsblom
Copyright Date: 2003
Pages: 448
  • Cite this Item
  • Book Info
    Mappae Mundi
    Book Description:

    Never before in history was the interaction between people and their natural environment as complex and problematic as it is today. A proliferation of scientific research has yielded valuable insights into various aspects of this interaction from the angle of many disciplines - the natural sciences, the social sciences, archaeology and history, ecological studies. The diversity of approaches has created a need for synthesis, for a study that transcends the boundaries of traditional fields of study. In this volume, authors from various academic backgrounds discuss the relations between human society and its physical environment in the course of history, highlighting a number of significant periods, throughout the world. The last chapter assesses our present situation and prospects for the future in the light of theoretical reflections based on the evidence from the past.

    eISBN: 978-90-485-0508-1
    Subjects: History, Sociology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-10)
  3. Preface
    (pp. 11-12)
    Ir Maarten van Veen
  4. Editors’ Acknowledgements
    (pp. 13-14)
  5. 1 Introduction: Towards a Historical View of Humanity and the Biosphere
    (pp. 15-20)

    We live in a world that is changing, and we know we do. When we compare the conditions in which we find ourselves today with those prevailing around 1750, a mere ten generations ago, we can draw up an almost endless list of differences. There are, to mention just one of the most striking facts, far more of us. In 1750 humankind numbered around 771 million people; that is about 25% less than the population of India today (see Table 1.1). Most people were younger, with an average life expectancy of 27 years across the world, about half of today’s...

  6. 2 Introductory Overview: the Expanding Anthroposphere
    (pp. 21-46)

    Human life, like all life, consists of matter and energy structured and directed by information. All life is part of an ecosystem; all ecosystems together constitute the biosphere – the total configuration of living things interacting with each other and with non-living things. Every form of life continuously affects, and is affected by, its ecosystem.

    The origins of life remain a mystery, but it seems safe to assume that interactions between living and non-living matter are as old as life itself. According to current insights, life probably began around 3.8 billion years ago, deep beneath the earth’s surface near volcanic...

  7. 3 The Holocene: Global Change and Local Response
    (pp. 47-70)

    Nature is change. Geological forces of change are a mixture of slow, constant processes and sudden pulsed events such as earthquakes; such forces have been in operation ever since planet Earth came into being. Their domain, the lithosphere, interacts with the hydrosphere and the atmosphere, each having its own suite of processes. How these processes interact, particularly with human populations, is the focus of this chapter. Let us start at the beginning. As life evolved over the course of time, large parts of the earth’s crust became covered with vegetation. The biosphere was born. Animals appeared, which in turn modified...

  8. 4 Environment and the Great Transition: Agrarianization
    (pp. 71-110)

    Human-induced modification of the environment started with the use of fire, much earlier than any form of agriculture. Fire opened up the land for hunting and early forms of horticulture and agriculture and pastoralism. The subsequent process of agrarianization has already been described in Chapter 2. The agrarian regime saw a series of tools and practices, including the adaptation of new crops and the domestication of animals. Animal domestication and a more sedentary existence influenced population growth. Parts of the natural environment – good soil, sources of water and wood, mineral deposits – became a ‘resource’. New forms of social...

  9. 5 Exploring the Past: on Methods and Concepts
    (pp. 111-148)

    Our perception of the past has changed enormously over the course of time. Early travellers – geographersavant la lettre– have contributed to our knowledge by giving descriptions and conceptualizing what they encountered (Lacoste 1996). Much of this knowledge disappeared for long periods. With the ‘Golden Age’ discoveries of the 15thand 16thcenturies and, in its wake, the reinterpretation or outright rejection of religious dogmas – for instance, the claim that the Earth was created in the year 4004 BC – Europe ushered herself, and the world, into the ‘scientification’ of the past. This process of making empirical...

  10. 6 Increasing Social Complexity
    (pp. 149-208)

    One of the great questions about human societies is how they emerged and transformed – and sometimes decayed – in the face of environmental change. With increased capabilities to use animals, store food and manage water supplies came a surplus of food exceeding the needs for bare survival. This allowed the rise of warriors and priests, administrations, palaces and temples – at least so the story goes. It has been related in previous chapters as the process of agrarianization, with many linked driving forces specific to given cultures and ecological regimes. Within each group of humans there would have been...

  11. 7 Empire: the Romans in the Mediterranean
    (pp. 209-256)

    In the previous chapter we focused on what can be said about the interactions between peoples and their natural environment as social complexity increased. In a sense, the Roman Empire can be seen as the culmination of the development towards states and empires in antiquity. But can we add anything to the entire libraries of studies on the Roman Republic and the Empire that followed in its footsteps? Thousands of books have been written on all aspect of Roman society, culture, economics, military strategy and organization, measurements, infrastructures, political history – probably nothing can be added that has not already...

  12. 8 Understanding: Fragments of a Unifying Perspective
    (pp. 257-300)

    The previous chapters have given various illustrations of how socio-natural systems evolved within their environment as they developed collective and individual habits, techniques, rituals and more elaborate ways of communication and organization. These developments are sequences of processes of exploitation and adaptation. Simmons (1989) lists elements and stages of these multi-faceted interaction processes: domestication, simplification, diversification and conservation. Goudsblom (1996) stresses the differentiation in behaviour and power between people and animals and between people; increasing numbers and concentrations of people; and the specialization, organization and stratification with its interdependencies. In investigating aspects higher on the scale of complexity, there is...

  13. 9 Population and Environment in Asia since 1600 AD
    (pp. 301-352)

    Given the limited time and the clearly overly large ambition to sketch Mappae Mundi for all places and times in human history and pre-history, we now take a big leap and focus on the last 400 years. Around the year 1000 AD about two out of every three human beings lived in Asia and some 70% of economic activity took place there (Maddison 2001). The larger part lived in the densely populated plains of China and India. By the year 2000 AD still about 60% of the world population lived in Asia but its share in economic activity had declined...

  14. 10 The Past 250 Years: Industrialization and Globalization
    (pp. 353-378)

    A quick look at maps10.1a-dand10.2a-din the colour section of this book shows some remarkable changes. Maps 10.1a-d show changes in population density all over the world. Around 1700, there were only four large areas with a density of over 8 people/km² (East Asia, South-East Asia, India, and Western Europe), and none with a density of over 16 people/km². There had been some growth by around 1800, but it was of an incremental nature: the high-density areas had expanded somewhat, but hardly any other large areas had been added to the list. The map of 1900 shows...

  15. 11 Back to Nature? The Punctuated History of a Natural Monument
    (pp. 379-394)

    Jan Hendrik Weissenbruch (1824-1903) was one of the most distinguished Dutch painters in the 19thcentury. Skies, shores and landscapes were his passion, in particular the wide, wet ‘polders’ – stretches of land reclaimed from the ravaging waters in Holland. He never had to travel far because all this beauty was abundantly available around The Hague, the town where he had lived all his life. From his home he could walk to the famous collection of Dutch paintings at the Mauritshuis Museum in five minutes, and as a young man he spent many hours there contemplating and even copying the...

  16. 12 Conclusions: Retrospect and Prospects
    (pp. 395-414)

    The interaction of humans with the biosphere is as old as the human species itself. It has acquired a new momentum over the past 250 years when, in the course of industrialization, people developed new means of technology and organization which enabled them to reach further and deeper into the natural environment than ever before and to incorporate more and more ‘nature’ into their societies.

    Social trends rarely occur without eliciting counter-trends. The rise of modern industry in the 19thcentury was generally hailed as progress, but from the very beginning it also met with protest and resistance. Resistance was...

  17. Notes
    (pp. 415-422)
  18. Bibliography
    (pp. 423-444)
  19. About the authors
    (pp. 445-446)
  20. Index of Subjects
    (pp. 447-460)
  21. Index of Names
    (pp. 461-464)
  22. Index of Geographic Names
    (pp. 465-470)