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Cartographic ideals and geopolitical realities: international maps of the world from the 1890s to the present.


For more than a century, cartographers have dreamed of constructing a single, internationally recognized map of the world, based on a common scale and universally agreed conventions. This essay charts the chequered history of this idea. It focuses on two chronologically distinct initiatives: the International Map of the World (IMW), which was first mooted at the end of the nineteenth century and still incomplete by the 1970s, and the Global Map Project, which was initiated in the closing years of the twentieth century and is still on-going.

The history of this idea provides a revealing commentary on the international hopes and national anxieties that have characterized the intellectual and political history of the last century. The IMW was promoted, at the end of the nineteenth century, to challenge the confrontational nationalism and imperialism of that era. Its champions drew explicitly on the rhetoric of international peace and harmony and looked forward to a new, less-divided world which they hoped the IMW would both reflect and sustain. The Global Map can be seen as a post-Cold War version of the same impulse, though couched in the language of global environmentalism rather international geopolitics. As we hope to show, if the Global Map is to succeed, its architects will need to be fully aware of the lessons of the IMW's protracted gestation and eventual decline.

The International Map of the World from the 1890 to the 1970s


The late nineteenth century and the early twentieth century witnessed a dramatic intensification in what is now termed 'globalization' (Hirst and Thompson 1999). Despite the attempts by several European powers to protect themselves from international competition, the years prior to 1914 were characterized by unprecedented increases in global commodity trade, facilitated by long-distance transport technologies such as steam ships, intercontinental railways and oceanic telegraph connections (Hugill 1993, 1999). The upward shift in the scale at which the world economy operated generated an intense fin-de-siecle debate about the impact of an increasingly 'globalized' future. For some, a global twentieth century was the ultimate sublime fantasy; for others, it represented only uncertainty and danger.

As Brown (1979, 299) has argued, this debate influenced the attitudes of mapmakers who sought to prepare themselves 'mentally ... and scientifically ... to think and act in terms of global cartography' (see also Heffernan 2002). it was already clear by the middle of the nineteenth century that the ever-expanding archive of maps constructed in different parts of the world, on a bewildering variety of scales, projections and styles, had become a confusing obstacle to scientific analysis rather than a useful resource. The idea of an internationally agreed 1:1 million map series was mooted as early as the 1860s by Sir Henry James, Director of the British Topographical Department, as a potential solution to this looming crisis (James 1860). The belief that the 1:1 million scale represented the most sensible option for an international map reflected the success of mid-century maps depicting the emerging regional economic and political federations at this scale, notably the map of the inchoate Kingdom of Italy, published by the Instituto Geographico Militare in 1855, and Augustus Papen's hypsometric map of Central Europe, published by Ernst G. Ravenstein in 1858.

In August 1891, a proposal to construct a standard 1:1 million international map was formulated in a more systematic fashion by the German geographer Albrecht Penck in a famous presentation to the Fifth International Geographical Congress (IGC) in Bern, Switzerland (Penck 1892). Penck argued that a new 1:1 million map series should be devised through international agreement between the leading national cartographic agencies. Each sheet should depict 'a region in the frame of its natural surroundings', not merely as 'a piece of land limited by political boundaries' (Penck 1893, 253). On the basis of a common projection, the series would create cartographic segments of a globe 1 million times smaller than the earth itself and would allow scientists and students alike to establish meaningful, world-wide comparisons for the first time.

In some respects, the IMW was intended to challenge the assumption that cartography was an inherently national science undertaken by, and for, specific nation states. On the other hand, the map's advocates were realistic about the need to work with, rather than against, the major national map-making agencies. These were, of course, the only organizations capable of overseeing such an ambitious project, and Penck, in particular, repeatedly emphasized that the IMW should be regarded as complementing, rather than replacing, national maps. '[M]aps of our own country are absolutely indispensable', Penck insisted:
   commercial interests, missionary undertakings, and
   colonial enterprise create a demand for maps of
   foreign countries, while of the maps required for
   educational purposes and as illustrations of contemporary
   history, the name is legion ... [But] a uniform
   map of the world would be at the same time a uniform
   map of the British Empire, showing not only the
   actual territory under British authority, but also the
   sphere of British commercial activity, and would
   serve the varied purposes of administration, navigation,
   and commerce (Penck 1893; 254).

Penck's proposal received a warm reception from the leading figures in the IGC, despite reservations about the likely cost of such an undertaking and about the practical difficulties of securing international agreement in an area where national traditions and conventions were deeply entrenched. A special IGC committee was duly established to lay down some provisional guidelines. This comprised twenty members from ten countries including, alongside Penck himself, Eduard Bruckner, John Scott Keltie, John Wesley Powell, Ernst G. Ravenstein, Ferdinand von Richthofen, Franz Schrader and Alexander Supan. (1)


Progress was agonisingly slow. Everyone agreed on the need for a standard specification to ensure uniformity between different map sheets, but there was no consensus on how this might be achieved. The spelling of place names was a potentially endless source of dispute, and as time passed, the areas of contention and disagreement seemed to increase rather than diminish. The traditional rivalry between Britain and France was never far from the surface. The former initially argued for imperial rather than metric units of measurement, while the latter insisted that Paris, rather than Greenwich, should be used as the prime meridian.

Gradually, a set of ground rules emerged that were discussed, embellished and finally agreed at the IGC meetings in London (1895), Berlin (1899), the United States of America (1904) and Geneva (1908) (Robic 1996). (2) These agreements were then ratified by the cartographical agencies of the major powers at a full-scale international conference organized in London by the Ordnance Survey and the British Foreign Office in November 1909. The London conference specified that the IMW would use a 1:1 million scale on a simple polyconic projection. Greenwich would be the prime meridian, but the metric system would be used as the measure of distance. A uniform sheet size of 6[degrees] longitude and 4[degrees] latitude was also adopted. By this stage, the main IMW committee in the IGC included such luminaries Sir Charles Close, W. M. Davis and John Bartholomew. (3)

These outline agreements allowed work on the IMW to begin in several countries, and the first sheets made their appearance two years later when the French and Hungarian authorities published IMW sheets depicting the environs of Paris and Budapest, respectively. A single British IMW map of southern England also appeared in 1911, as did three Argentine sheets. Two further British sheets appeared in 1912, alongside one each from the United States of America and Portugal. In all, about twenty sheets were published in accordance with the 1909 resolutions (Macleod 1925).

The existing IMW maps were reviewed and additional resolutions agreed at the Rome IGC in the summer of 1913 (IGC 1915, vol. 1, 5-65, 111-115). These encouraging developments were overshadowed, however, by the decision of the United States of America to withdraw from the IMW project to develop its own 1:1 million map of South America unfettered by international agreements. The American rejection of the IMW was motivated in part by Washington's impatience at the lack of progress and the apparently endless political machinations and bureaucratic delays on the IMW committee. But the American position was also a manifestation of U.S. isolationism and the refusal to countenance 'entangling alliances' that might limit the nature and scope of U.S. involvement in the American 'sphere of influence' (Macleod 1926).

Despite this set-back, a second international IMW conference was organized in Paris in December 1913 by the French Service Geographique de l'Armee (SGA) and the Ministere des Affaires Etrangeres to agree the final IMW specifications (IMW 1914) (Figure 1). Some thirty-four countries were represented at the Paris conference, and among their agreements was a commitment to establish a Central IMW Bureau at the British Ordnance Survey's Southampton headquarters to facilitate the exchange of information between the different national cartographic agencies involved and to assist with the publication of the maps in a standardized form. Consistent with earlier agreements, the Bureau was to have no technical or executive functions as these were to remain entirely the responsibility of the national agencies.


The Paris conference represented the culmination of over twenty years of negotiation and countless hours of detailed work from a multitude of sub-committees. It was a brave attempt to create a single set of cartographic specifications that could be implemented in all parts of the globe, from the most thinly to the most densely populated. But it was clear from the outset that these conventions could never be rigidly enforced so long as national agencies retained control over the production of individual IMW sheets. Indeed, the IMW committee had pragmatically concluded that a measure of national variation was not only inevitable but also desirable. In order to involve as many participating countries as possible, the IMW committee ended up encouraging different cartographic agencies to review and adapt the IGC conventions to suit their particular circumstances.

The difficulty of maintaining consistency and uniformity in the depiction of relief illustrated the wider problem. The issue was expertly summarized by Colonel A. H. Bystrom, a member of the Swedish delegation at the 1913 IGC in Rome (Bystrom 1914). The logical ideal for the IMW would have been a standard system of contour intervals from sea level to the highest mountain. But if this standard was determined by the need to communicate meaningful relief variations in mountainous regions, the equivalent variations in what Bystrom called 'more civilized' lowland regions would disappear. Conversely, if the standard was determined by the need to show meaningful variations in relief in lowland areas, the sheets depicting mountainous areas would become indecipherably complex. 'From several points of view', Bystrom concluded, 'it is ... necessary to desert the ideal and make the height difference unequal' between different sheets (Bystrom 1914, 28).

The same problem hampered attempts to standardize the use of colour in the depiction of relief. In his 1913 report, Bystrom concluded that if the shades used to colour the contour ranges on the existing IMW maps showing densely populated, lowland regions were to be extended to sheets showing more sparsely populated, highland regions, the IMW would require forty-five different shades to cover the entire globe, a practical impossibility (Bystrom 1914). Matters were further complicated by the need to use additional colours to represent features such as built-up areas and lines of communication.

Compromises were inevitable, and different national agencies were allowed to use varying contour sequences on IMW sheets depending on the kind of terrain being depicted. Colour sequences also varied from sheet to sheet, though the standard system proposed by the Geographical Section of the General Staff (GSGS) in the British War Office was an ingenious development of earlier experiments with relief depiction on small-scale topographic maps using recently invented lithographic techniques. The sequence might be described as a modified spectral scale based on the 'the higher, the darker' principle. Light colours were chosen for lowland regions, though the initial use of white for the most low-lying areas was abandoned in favour of varying shades of light green. The use of a bluish green for the most low-lying areas was designed to avoid any impression that green represented vegetation. The selection of gradually darkening shades of brown to indicate ascending height conformed to the growing consensus that this colour was most appropriate for the vegetation-free surfaces of mountainous areas. A light yellowish median tone was added centrally so that green and brown tones deepened towards the bottom and top, respectively. The use of this intermediate yellowish tone allowed a wider range of well-differentiated colours to be used to cover the extremes of topographic surfaces (Figure 2).


War and peace

While the delegates at the Paris conference were awaiting the published proceedings of their deliberations, the outbreak of World War I shattered these carefully constructed compromises. The spirit of international scientific co-operation, which the IMW sought to exemplify, lay in ruins. The irony of this grim development was not lost on Close: 'It is an unfortunate fact', he wrote in his memoirs, 'that the friendly meetings of scientific men and women of different nationalities have no influence whatever on the political relations of the states to which they belong' (Close 1947, 115).

The four-and-half years between the summer of 1914 and the autumn of 1918 would leave precious little time for small-scale 'luxury' maps such as the IMW. For most of this period, the world's principal cartographic agencies concerned themselves with the production of large-scale maps of the major theatres of war (SGA 1936; O'Donoghie 1980). The IMW survived in various guises however, particularly in Britain where an additional eight sheets of India were prepared at the Ordnance Survey between 1914 and 1918. GSGS, previously directed by Close but now under the control of Walter Coote Hedley, also mobilized the cartographers at the Royal Geographical Society (RGS) in London to prepare simplified versions of the IMW European sheets (Heffernan 1996). Around one hundred 1:1 million sheets were prepared at the RGS during the war, under the watchful eye of the Society's abrasive secretary Arthur Hinks (Steers 1982). These covered most of Europe, Asia Minor, Arabia and Iraq.

The RGS maps used the agreed IMW sheet lines, but Hinks made no further attempts to conform to the other conventions laid down in 1909 and 1913 (Hinks 1915). This was primarily a matter of expediency as the RGS cartographers had neither the time nor the resources to undertake the fine drawing and engraving envisaged for the IMW. Nor were they able to produce layered colouring (Hinks 1939). These compromises did not unduly concern Hinks whose hostility to the internationalism underpinning the IMW was a matter of record. Addressing officers of the Royal Engineers in 1913, on the eve of the Paris conference, Hinks expressed some confusion about the objectives of the IMW:
   I do not know that any very definite statement has
   ever been made of the precise purpose of this map.
   We may think of it, perhaps, as meant for the use of
   the systematic geographer, whenever it shall have
   been determined what is the function of that person
   (Hinks 1913, 38).

According to Charles Close, who clashed repeatedly with Hinks about the merits of the IMW, the 1:1 million map prepared by Hinks in the RGS was not an alternative to the IMW but
   only an offspring from it ... a useful adjunct ... The
   International Map is a more authoritative production
   and differs from this [RGS] effort in form and intention,
   in character and detail. The [RGS] map ... has a
   National and not an International character (quoted in
   Hinks 1915, 142-143; see also MacLeod 1926).

British efforts to produce a simplified version of the IMW for Europe and the Middle East were inspired by a conviction, actively promoted by Hinks and Hedley, that the post-war peace conference would require a convenient small-scale map to allow easy comparisons across the continent. Their predictions proved accurate, and the RGS 1:1 million sheets were selected as an approved map series for the Peace Conference by the special 'geography commission' that was set up, at Hedley's suggestion, to review the most appropriate maps for the Peace Conferences at the start of the deliberations in Paris in February 1919 (Anon. 1919, 338; Martin 1968, 188-192).

The usefulness of the RGS 1:1 million sheets strengthened the case for continuing the IMW after 1918. Several of the newly created countries established at the Paris Peace Conferences signed up to the IMW agreements and set their cartographers to work preparing 1:1 million sheets. Forty-four nations eventually committed themselves to the 1913 IMW conventions, and by 1926, over 200 IMW sheets had been published in one form or another, though only a half of these sheets were consistent with the 1913 resolutions and only 21 conformed exactly (MacLeod 1926).

The geographical coverage was highly uneven (Figure 3). An absence of accurate maps at other scales and political uncertainty meant that no significant progress had been made on the sheets for Northeast Asia, Siberia and China. The absence of IMW sheets for other areas, notably Australia and Polynesia, reflected technical and resource difficulties. The fact that only four North American sheets had been published by the mid-1920s (of which three were more than a decade old) was a consequence of the U.S. withdrawal from the IMW, though it was widely anticipated that the U.S. authorities would quickly rectify this situation. According to MacLeod (1925, 20): 'the material for compilation is available, [and] we may feel confident that once the start has been made, production will be pushed on with characteristic American energy'.


In Paris, the SGA had prepared a series of its own 1:1 million European sheets during the war, and this new coverage was extended onto additional IMW maps after 1918, with particular reference to the French colonies in North Africa (SGA 1936). Due to the paucity of source material, the first edition of France's African series, published in 1924, carried the provisional title Croquis du Sahara et des Regions Limitrophes 1:1,000,000. The series expanded through the late 1920s and 1930s to include Equatorial Africa and by 1939 consisted of 54 sheets under the revised but still provisional title of Croquis du Sahara Francais.

The authorities in Bolshevik Russia were reluctant to contribute to the IMW, though the old Imperial Russian Geographical Society had participated enthusiastically in the pre-war discussions. Meynen (1961) suggests that the IMW's insistence on the Latin script and the metric system influenced the Russia position, though these seem minor considerations compared with the general climate of mutual suspicion between the western powers and the Bolshevik authorities and the rising level of secrecy and paranoia in Moscow. Revealingly, although the first sample sheets of the 'State of the Soviet Union 1:1,000,000' were published as early as 1926 and a further eighty completed by 1939, these maps were not made publicly available (Postnikov 2002).

Anxious to make use of the IMW on related mapping projects, partly to recoup some of the mounting costs, the Central Bureau of the IMW commissioned thematic maps based on the IMW sheets, including a remarkable 1:1 million map of the Roman Empire, published by the Ordnance Survey in the early 1930s (International Map of the Roman Empire 1930-1935).

Unfortunately, the progress made by national cartographic offices did not keep pace with the work of private organizations and non-IMW states. During the 1920s and 1930s, a number of international sheets conforming more or less closely to the Paris conventions were published outside the auspices of the IMW. The Brazilian Club de Engenharia issued an important fifty-sheet 'Carta do Brazil' on the millionth scale based on the 1909 conventions, but the finest example of non-IMW million-scale mapping was, undoubtedly the American Geographical Society's (AGS) 'Map of Hispanic America on the Millionth Scale' (see Figure 4 for index map). The American desire to construct this map independently of the IMW had precipitated the U.S. withdrawal from the project's international protocols. The first sheet (SE19) in the AGS series, showing the region around La Paz, was published as early as 1922, and all 110 sheets covering the whole of the American continent south of the U.S. border were complete by the end of 1945 (an example is shown in Figure 5). The AGS production was described by an awestruck Lord Rennell of Rodd, the RGS President at the time, as 'the greatest map ever produced of any one area' (see Anon. 1946; quoted in Bowman 1948, 143; Wright 1952, 300-319).


The progress made by national agencies operating outside of the IMW strengthened the arguments of critics such as Hinks whose war-time experience at the RGS had convinced him that only the independent national agencies of the leading powers were capable of mapping the world as a whole:
   The moral seems to be that if you want a general map
   covering a continent, consistent in style, and available
   in quantity, you must make it yourself, and
   whether you call it International or not is a matter
   of choice, or expediency, or perhaps of chance (Hinks
   1939, 408).

As more IMW sheets were produced, the difficulties of maintaining consistency intensified. The impossibility of ensuring consistency in the depiction of relief across all parts of the world had already been acknowledged, but it was nevertheless expected that this problem could be avoided in the more precisely mapped areas such as Europe. Unfortunately, the IMW regulations were not properly enforced even in the European arena, a fact seized upon by Hinks in a characteristically waspish review of what he saw as foreign incompetence (Hinks 1939). The sequences of contours and colouring adopted by different European agencies were confusing and inconsistent, Hinks revealed, with the result that the sheets depicting the gentle undulating landscapes of England boasted only four contour lines up to 1,000 m (what Hinks called 'les, courbes mattresses') whereas the sheets showing the steeper slopes of Norway used ten contour lines to cover the same range. Inconsistencies in the use of colour between different national agencies were also noticeable, continued Hinks, not least because the original schema produced by GSGS was 'such a masterpiece of colour-printing that no-one has been really successful in copying it' (Hinks 1939, 405).

Alongside the continuing problem of relief depiction, the IMW faced the more open-ended difficulty of ensuring some consistency in the level of detail in respect of settlements, roads, railways and other communication routes. Interpretations of the 1909 and 1913 conventions (which specified that the amount of detail should be determined by population density) varied considerably, resulting in some curious anomalies.

The inter-war IMW sheets suggest there were more first-class roads in Finland than in Belgium, more towns and villages in northeast Sweden than in northeast England and an equally developed road and rail infrastructure in Poland and eastern Germany (MacLeod 1925). Inconsistencies in detail could also be attributed to variations between source materials as seen on examples of sheets straddling African state borders (Figure 6).


The annual reports of the Central Bureau of the IMW reveal a growing frustration about the inability of the national agencies to adhere to the project's conventions (IMW 1921-1939). But under the terms of the 1913 agreement, the Bureau had no powers to intervene in the production process. Its sole function was to keep national agencies informed of progress being made in other countries and to facilitate the exchange of information. It was not even allowed to determine how the resulting maps were distributed, much to the surprise of interested consumers who regularly wrote to the Ordnance Survey in Southampton requesting IMW sheets. All the Bureau could do was to re-direct these inquiries to the producing agency.

This further undermined the original conventions which specified that sheets should be sold at a uniform price across the world. This unrealistic proposition would have defied any controlling mechanism, even if one had existed. Prices varied widely, and the Bureau often had no idea what a given IMW sheet would cost. All attempts to limit sales to accredited agents in different national capitals failed. The financial resources of the Bureau were also very limited as contributing nation states paid subscriptions of just 6 [pounds sterling] each in the mid-1920s. In 1924, the Bureau's revenue was a mere 60 [pounds sterling] 5s 5d, while its expenditure was 72 [pounds sterling] 6s. The cost of preparing its annual report alone accounted for 50 [pounds sterling] 13s (IMW 1921-1939).

Cold War and collapse

The IMW was once again interrupted by the outbreak of World War II. By that time, however, the value of the existing sheets was widely acknowledged, and new military map sheets at the 1:1 million scale appeared in most countries between 1940 and 1944, substantially expanding the global coverage, though not without massive duplication. Examples are numerous. In Germany, military cartographers produced a Sonderausgabe, later titled Deutsche Heereskarte 1:1,000,000, between 1941 and 1944 covering Europe, Western Asia and North Africa, as well as a 1:4 million series based on the original IMW sheets. Italian military authorities published their own 1:1 million map series covering Europe and large parts of Africa and Asia, as did the Japanese. In Great Britain, GSGS published a new 1:1 million series that included sheets of hitherto unmapped areas and revisions of existing IMW sheets.

Soviet cartographers began work in 1941 on a new edition of the existing 1:1 million Russian State Map (see above). Over 230 sheets had been compiled covering Europe and large parts of Southeast Asia by the mid-1950s, though like its precursor this new Soviet map was not designed for public consumption (Postnikov 2002) (Figure 7). The most extensive new 1:1 million series, however, were produced by the U.S. Army Map Service (AMS) in co-operation with GSGS in London, an Anglo-American endeavour that continued after 1945 as map series AMS 1301/GSGS 4646 and finally as a solo American project as map series AMS 1301.


The end of the war marked the beginning of a significant Chinese involvement in the IMW, culminating with an 83-sheet series of provisional 1:1 million maps of China, some in black and white and on thin paper. This series was completed in 1948 and was followed by a bilingual edition of the same maps in Chinese and English and with regular colour tints, the first sheets of which were published in 1955.

Despite these developments, the future of the IMW remained in serious jeopardy after World War II. The role of the Central Bureau had long been a concern, not least to those running it, and at the meeting of the new International Geographical Union (IGU) in Lisbon on 15 April 1949, a new Commission on the International Map of the World was established to review the problems that had beset the IMW thus far and consider what changes, if any, should be made to the Bureau (IGU 1949). The Commission recommended that the Bureau should operate from the new United Nations cartographic unit rather than the Ordnance Survey and the transfer to New York took place in September 1951.

This was no more than a palliative measure, however, and did little to address the IMW's more fundamental problems. By the early 1950s, only 400 or so of the 1000 plus sheets that would have been necessary to cover the entire terrestrial globe had been published. Many of these were already in urgent need of revision (IMW 1952; Tchang 1953) (see Figure 8). A number of commentators doubted whether a single global map made any sense in a divided world where opposing superpowers controlled the cartographic agenda. According to Gardiner (1960), the amount of topographical information available to be mapped had expanded dramatically since the IMW was first mooted, fuelled by aerial photography and the development of techniques to allow maps to be constructed from air photographs. Large tracts of the earth's surface were already accurately mapped at the 1:250,000 scale, so why bother with a 1:1 million IMW?


Other agencies, both national and international, had taken over the role previously claimed by the IMW, insisted Gardiner. This was especially obvious in the case of military map-making at the 1:1 million scale. Two world wars and the ongoing Cold War had immeasurably strengthened the power of military cartographic agencies. Although military maps were frequently made available for public sale without restriction, they reflected military rather than civilian requirements and rarely conformed to IMW specifications. Military maps at this scale were almost always more up-to-date than the equivalent IMW sheets, where these existed at all.

The insatiable demand for aeronautical charts for military and commercial purposes also posed a direct threat to the IMW. During World War II, the Aeronautical Chart Service of the U.S. Air Force produced a 1:1 million World Aeronautical Chart (WAC) to facilitate long-distance aviation. These sheets were passed to the new International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) after the war where they evolved into the WAC series. The ICAO charts were designed solely for air travel and used standard 300-m contour intervals and an entirely different colour scheme from the IMW. Given the enormous commercial value of the aviation industry, it is scarcely surprising that most nation states gave priority to their membership of the ICAO and to the production and maintenance of the comprehensive ICAO air charts of their territories, rather than the IMW.

While accepting these criticisms, Crone (1962) insisted that the IMW could survive if it was given a clearer and more precise purpose. As he correctly noted, the original sponsors of the IMW had been remarkably vague about the map's purpose, a fact lamented at the time by critics such as Hinks (see above). This lack of precision was partly a consequence of the simple desire by Penck and his supporters to map areas of the world about which very little was known. This rationale was no longer valid, insisted Crone, and the IMW needed a much more compelling modern raison d'etre. As a first step, the existing sheets needed to be revised based on simple priorities and with a specific audience in mind.

A United Nations Technical Conference was organized in Bonn in August 1962 in a last-ditch attempt to establish a new role for the IMW. Preparations for the conference were impressive. A substantial exhibition about the IMW's history was organized (Schamp 1962) and delegates were provided with reprints of the original specifications from 1909 and 1913 (IMW 1962a) as well as detailed bibliographies of the existing literature on the project (Meynen 1961, 1962). The formal amendments to the 1913 specification proposed by different countries were also published and circulated in advance (IMW 1962b). The conference agreed to amend the specifications in various ways, notably those relating to relief depiction and symbology (Figure 9). It also agreed to adopt the Lambert conformal conic projection to ensure conformity with the WAC program (IMW 1963).


The annual reports on the IMW, published through the remainder of the 1960s by the UN's Department of Technical Cooperation for Development, attest to the resolute efforts made to rescue the ailing project (IMW 1962-1979). These included a revised contour specification and colour scheme. In accordance with UN ideals of international cooperation, the colour scheme included elements from proposals issued by the United Kingdom, France and Germany.

None of these reforms impressed the IMW's critics. In a famous address to the 1964 IGC meeting in London, the influential American academic cartographer Arthur Robinson attacked the IMW as a monumental waste of effort. The 1:1 million scale was too large for a general reference map but too small for serious fieldwork, Robinson insisted. The IMW was no more than 'cartographic wallpaper' (Robinson 1965).

By the 1970s, the gloomier assessments of Gardiner and Robinson seemed justified. Only a handful of new editions were released through the early 1970s, with the result that the IMW could no longer be regarded as an active international series. It was not used as a source for worldwide digital mapping programs, one consequence of the many inconsistencies noted above, and was effectively superseded by the larger scale digital mapping programs and the many publicly available military products.

In 1989, a UNESCO report by a committee of prominent cartographers concluded that the idea of a 1:1 million IMW was no longer feasible and that the prospect of achieving success in the production of any international map series was remote (IMW 1989). It recommended that the United Nations no longer monitor the IMW project as most nation states had long since ceased production under this program. Those countries that wished to continue to produce 1:1 million maps as part of their national series were encouraged to use the specifications laid down at the 1962 Bonn conference. The report recommended that the IMW map collection be maintained in the Dag Hammarskjold Library of the United Nations Secretariat in New York.

The IMW was a valiant but ultimately unsuccessful attempt to map the world in a standardized and systematic way. Its slow and lingering death was one, admittedly minor, manifestation of the weakness of international co-operation when confronted with the realities of national self-interest (Winchester 1995). But there were other, more prosaic reasons for the IMW's decline and fall. The failure to implement a standard method of relief portrayal was symptomatic of a project that was unable to keep pace with changing technologies and consumer needs. Although the majority of IMW sheets were prepared on the basis of existing maps at other scales rather than new surveys, the project was also extremely expensive and time consuming. The precise cost of the exercise is difficult to calculate as the work was carried out in so many different locations and over such a long period of time. The figures available for the AGS's 1:1 million 'Map of Hispanic America' offer some clues, however, even though this series was not officially part of the IMW program. The AGS map took twenty-five years to complete and, though it based on existing data, it cost $570,000 to produce (Wright 1952). In areas embracing the greatest variation in relief on the west coast of South America, no fewer than twelve plates were required to show altitudes and bathymetry using hypsometric tints.

In a recent review essay, Rhind (1999, 2) summarized the reasons behind the IMW's failure as follows:
   lack of commitment to finance it by those who agreed
   to participate; conflicts in priority with national
   objectives in a situation where resources were always
   limited; the lack of clearly articulated needs which
   the IMW was designed to meet and demonstration of
   its success from its use; a lack of clear responsibility
   for action; the duplication of work given that much of
   the same material had to be created on different map
   projections; concerns over the ownership of the
   results; the exorbitant costs of doing all of this in a
   pre-computer world.

This undeniably accurate assessment arguably misses a larger and more positive interpretation of the IMW hinted out by Thrower's earlier comments: 'through all the vicissitudes of the twentieth century, the IMW has been a vehicle for international co-operation, if not an unqualified cartographic success' (Thrower 1996, 165). Despite its many failings and eventual eclipse, the IMW survived as a serious international scientific project for more than half a century. Perhaps, the real impact of the IMW needs to be measured not in terms of the quantity and quality of its map sheets but in the wider lesson it teaches us about the potential of international co-operation (Meynen 1962).

Global Map from the 1990s to the present

Almost exactly one hundred years after the IMW was first proposed, a new initiative emerged to construct a new international map for the digital age, also at the 1:1 million scale. In February 1991, a publication entitled An Image Survey: Watching the Earth appeared in Japanese (GSIJ 1991). Although yet to be translated into English, this document formed the basis for Global Map, a new international initiative co-ordinated by the International Steering Committee for Global Mapping (ISCGM), whose secretariat is located in the Geographical Survey Institute of Japan (GSIJ). (4)

Watching the Earth was produced at a time when the Japanese government was actively seeking a more prominent role in international initiatives, particularly those connected to global environmental issues. As Okada

(2003) points out, Japan had met considerable success in balancing economic growth and environmental preservation through the post-war era, and the idea that the country might transfer its environmental problem solving to developing countries was politically attractive. Japan had become seriously interested in environmental Official Development Assistance (ODA) at the fifteenth G7 Summit in 1989 and at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio in 1992. Japan announced a major expansion in ODA committed to environment. Agenda 21 (UNCED 1992), especially chapter forty on 'Information for decision-making', which came out of that meeting, included a call for global environmental data. The Global Map concept was already in place to respond to this call. Japan saw itself in an important international leadership role on environmental issues and played a very active role in UNCED at that time. Japan still sees itself as active in this arena and continues to actively participate in the follow-up activities, including the World Summit on Sustainable Development.

Chapter four of Watching the Earth is entitled 'Main Challenges for the Surveying and Mapping Sector'. It is interesting to note that the suggestions made were distilled from the results of a questionnaire completed by all staff members of the Geographical Survey Institute together with a careful analysis of what had been done before, including the IMW, and the existing situation of global environmental mapping in 1990-1991. The chapter considered possible initiatives at two scales: 1:1 million for the entire globe and 1:1 million or larger mainly for developing countries in the Asian region. At the global scale, consideration was given to three possibilities: developing a global environmental base map, constructing a global environmental database and establishing global monitoring systems. Both analogue and digital approaches were considered, and approximate costs were worked out. An analogue approach to creating a global environmental base map was estimated to be many more times expensive than a digital one.

One of the earliest papers in English on Global Map was that given on behalf of GSIJ by Hiroshi Masaharu to the Asian Conference on Remote Sensing held in Mongolia in October 1992 (Masaharu 1992). This was an early example of the process of extensive international consultation on the concept that was systematically initiated by GSIJ and which has been described by Masaharu and Akiyama (2003). The First International Workshop on Global Mapping was held in Izumo, Japan in 1994, and a major result of this meeting was that 'The Workshop resolved that Global Map development should proceed with a goal of completion by the year 2000' (GSIJ 1996). Two years later, the Second International Workshop of Global Map was held in Tsukuba, and the ISCGM was established with Professor John E. Estes as Chair (ISCGM 1996a). Estes was a strong proponent of the need for core global datasets, and Global Map provided an opportunity to implement his ideas. In a major address, Kunio Nonomura, Director of the Geographical Survey Institute at that time, outlined the details of the Global Map project as a group of global geographic datasets of known and verified quality, with consistent specifications to be widely available to all at minimal cost. Later in 1996, a second meeting of the ISCGM took place in California in conjunction with the interregional Seminar on Global Mapping for the Implementation of Multinational Environmental Agreements and issued the Santa Barbara Statement recommending that a Global Mapping Forum be created bringing data users and data providers together (ISCGM 1996b) (Figure 10). In 1997, Japan and the United States proposed to the nineteenth Special Session of the United Nations General Assembly that Global Map be formally part of the program for further implementation of Agenda 21. This proposal was formally accepted by UNIGASS. Co-operation between the State Department of the United States and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan sent a strong message of the importance of the Global Map initiative to both nations.


Global Mapping Forum 1997 was held in Gifu, Japan (ISCGM 1997). The third meeting of ISCGM took place concurrently, and the draft technical specification and an action plan were adopted. Global Mapping Forum 1998 took place in Sioux Falls, USA together with the Fourth Meeting of ISCGM (ISCGM 1998a). At that meeting, with a letter of support from the United Nations, Professor Estes, Chair of ISCGM, formally invited the national mapping organizations of all countries to participate in the Global Map Project. Later that year, at the Fifth Meeting of ISCGM in Canberra, Australia, the ISCGM adopted the specifications for Global Map Version 1.0 and the production of Global Map began (ISCGM 1998b).

Global Map Version 1.0 has eight data layers including vegetation, land cover, land use, elevation, drainage, population centres, boundaries and transportation. Version 1.0 of Global Map was formally released in 2000. Version 0 of Global Map, which was available as a starting point for Version 1.0, included elevation data from GTOPO 30, land characteristics from the 1-km Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR) and drainage, transportation, populated places and administrative units from Vector Map Level 0 (initially the Digital Chart of the World). These were to be used and verified by national mapping agencies and formed a foundational database for Global Map Version 1.0.

Without the existence and availability of these datasets, progress towards the production of Global Map would have been very slow indeed. Here, the positive involvement of the United States has been a critical factor. Kelmelis et al. (2000) outline this in detail. As Kelmelis has noted more recently: 'USGS provided or facilitated getting the various datasets for the Level 0 of Global Map ... These data represent an aggregate investment of many tens of millions of dollars by the US Government and, in some cases, large investments by some of our allies. I believe this was a very generous donation by the leadership of USGS and NIMA at the time' (Kelmelis 2002).

If American isolationism undermined the IMW in the early twentieth century, the attitude of the U.S. authorities towards Global Map in the past decade or so has been quite different. The support of the United States has been a major factor in the success of the project so far. The sixth meeting of ISCGM took place at the Cambridge Conference in 1999 (ISCGM 1999), and the seventh in Cape Town in 2000 (ISCGM 2000a). Later that year at the Global Mapping Forum in Hiroshima, Japan the first edition of Global Map was completed and distributed (GSIJ 2000). The eighth meeting of ISCGM was held in 2001 in Cartegena and a ninth meeting in Budapest in 2002. The tenth meeting of ISCGM took place in Okinawa, Japan in July 2003 (Secretariat of ISCGM 2003) in conjunction with Global Mapping Forum 2003. The eleventh meeting occurred in Bangalore, India in February 2004 (ISCGM 2004), the twelfth in Cairo, Egypt in April 2005, with the thirteenth planned for Santiago, Chile in November 2006. To date, 143 organizations, most of which are national mapping agencies, are involved in the Global Map Project and twenty have fully verified, complete data released. Over thirty other nations, including Canada and China, have submitted their data to Global Map for verification, as has the Scientific Committee for Antarctic Research for the Antarctic continent and data preparation is far advanced in a number of other countries such as Brazil. In addition, some countries have even submitted updates to their original data contributions. These efforts mean that Global Map coverage has been achieved for a substantial portion of the earth's surface. The nature and extent of global map coverage as of April 2005 are shown on Figures 11 and 12.


Ten years after the UNCED meeting in Rio de Janeiro and the release of Agenda 21, the World Summit on Sustainable Development was held in Johannesburg. While the Global Map idea was an initiative which responded to Agenda 21, ISCGM has continued its efforts to provide a global database and was involved in four preparatory meetings leading up to the Summit, holding workshops and side events on Global Map at each one (Maruyama and Akiyama 2003; Masaharu and Akiyama 2003). As a result of the involvement of the Global Map Secretariat, the World Summit on Sustainable Development Implementation Document, agreed upon by all nations at the Summit, contains paragraphs 132 and 133 which read as follows:

132 Promote the development and wider use of earth observation technologies, including satellite remote sensing, global mapping and geographic information systems, to collect quality data on environmental impacts, and land use change, through urgent actions at all levels to:

a) Strengthen cooperation and coordination among global observing systems and research; programs for integrated global observations, taking into account the need for building capacity and sharing of data from ground-based observations, satellite remote sensing and other sources among all countries;

b) Develop information systems that make the storing of valuable data possible, including the active exchange of Earth observation data;

c) Encourage initiatives and partnerships for global mapping.

133 Support countries, particularly developing countries, in their national efforts to:

a) Collect data that are accurate, long term, consistent and reliable;

b) Use satellite and remote sensing technologies for data collection and further improvement of ground-based observations;

c) Access, explore and use geographic information by utilizing the technologies of satellite remote sensing, satellite global positioning, mapping and geographic information systems (United Nations. 2002).

The explicit recognition of Global Map in paragraph 132c is a major political achievement by Japan and is important for a number of reasons. All the nations that signed the World Implementation Document have tacitly agreed to participate in and implement Global Map. This gives national mapping agencies that are responsible for Global Map production strong arguments for allocating resources to the creation of Global Map. For every nation that agreed to the World Implementation Document, Global Map becomes both a national and international commitment. The challenges of implementation still, of course, remain, and promises made are not always promises kept.

In addition, the designation of ISCGM as a recognized implementation organization strengthens the case for the participation of national mapping organizations in ISCGM. The Government of Japan, which is providing substantial financial support to the ISCGM Secretariat at GSIJ, has indicated its willingness to continue this support which has been so critical to the implementation of Global Map by actively promoting Global Map at the Summit (Masaharu and Akiyama 2003). Again, this is part of a major thrust of the Government of Japan in the environmental field.

As examples of the Japanese government's interest and support, in the fiscal year 2000, Japan committed over 32% of its substantial ODA to environmental issues (Okada 2003). A new initiative, the Environmental Conservation Initiative for Sustainable Development (EcoISD) was announced at the Johannesburg Conference.
   The EcoISD comprises three philosophies: human
   security; ownership and partnership; and pursuit of
   environmental conservation and development. Under
   these philosophies five basic policies were established:
   capacity development in the environment;
   active integration of environmental concerns;
   Japan's leading role; cooperation under broad and
   comprehensive frameworks; and applications of
   Japanese enterprise and scientific knowledge
   (Okada 2003: 7).

The national mapping agencies

A key element of Global Map is that it is driven and controlled by national mapping agencies (Maruyama and Akiyama 2003). In this respect, there are three levels of involvement designated A, B, and C. Level A involvement requires a national mapping agency to provide and process data for its own country and assist one or more Level C countries. Level B involvement requires the provision and processing of data only for the country concerned, and national mapping agencies in Level C countries receive capacity building support from Level A national mapping agencies. The Geographical Survey Institute of Japan, in co-operation with JICA, the Japanese Government aid agency, has been particularly active in this respect (JICA 2003). Again, this reflects one of the major principles of Japanese ODA:
   We cannot achieve positive results in tackling environmental
   problems unless we form long-term partnerships
   with people in charge in the recipient countries.
   To that end 'capacity development' is important in
   such tasks as nurturing the environment sector in
   these countries (Ms. Shiho Kanie, Japanese Ministry of
   Foreign Affairs Economic Cooperation Bureau, quoted
   in Okada 2003: 27).

Infrastructure and capacity building has been further encouraged by the provision of grants by both ESRI and Intergraph, leading software suppliers in the geospatial community. ESRI launched in May 2001 a $5 million grant program to help organizations participate in Global Map (ESRI 2002). The Estes Global Map/global spatial data infrastructure (GSDI) grant program was established in honour of Professor John E. Estes, the first Chair of ISCGM whose untimely death took place in 2001. The grant provides both software and training. A condition of the grant is that recipient nations place their 1:1 million datasets that meet Global Map specifications on the Geography Network in addition to providing them to the Global Map Secretariat. A similar $2 million grant program funded by Intergraph was announced in 2004/2005. In August 2003, the Global Map training program offered by GSI and JICA took place in Nairobi and for the first time was combined with the training provided by ESRI. It is interesting to note that of the twenty countries that have fully released their data at the time of writing (May 2005), the majority are developing nations, a situation which is quite different from IMW, which was dominated by the industrial countries.

Regional co-operation is also very much a feature of the philosophy and organization of the Global Map structure. Although several European countries are members of ISCGM in their own right, the relatively recent creation of EuroGeographics to represent all European national mapping agencies means that this agency took the lead in creating a seamless European-wide contribution to the Global Map Project. This effort is currently being coordinated by the National Survey of Finland, with Euro Global Map covering thirty countries released in September 2004 and available through EuroGeographics. Participation in Global Map has also been explicitly endorsed and supported by the regional groupings of national mapping agencies from Asia (PCGIAP), Africa (CODI) and the Americas (PCIDEA) and supported by the various United Nations Cartographic Conferences since 1996.

A number of organizations are represented on ISCGM in an advisory capacity including the United Nations Geographic Information Working Group, the United Nations University and the International Cartographic Association. The International Standards organization and the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) also have liaison status with ISCGM. At the 2002 ISCGM Meeting in Budapest, changes were proposed in membership categories with three classes being proposed: national members; liaison members (formerly advisors and observers) and special members (e.g., the Chair and Secretary General) to facilitate participation and formalize the roles the various organizations may play in the development of Global Map specifications and goals. These were formally approved at the Tenth ISCGM Meeting in Okinawa in July 2003 (Secretariat of the ISCGM 2003).

Will ISCGM succeed in providing a 1:1 million Global Map by its new target data of 2007 or will history repeat itself and Global Map meet the same fate as the International Map of the World? David Rhind (2000) provides an interesting analysis of the challenges facing global mapping and argues that the most promising way forward is to start again utilizing raster data and existing 1:250,000 maps to produce a new global database with leadership and implementation from the private sector. He argues that Global Map is at too small a scale to meet existing needs, and although he did not rule out success, he was clearly somewhat skeptical.

The authors would argue that starting again is not the best option and that building on the substantial achievements already made by Global Map is a more promising way ahead. This, however, depends on the renewed co-operation and support by national mapping agencies. Developments in this respect have been promising. An increasing number of countries have committed to Global Map but perhaps more importantly have completed their Global Map coverage. Activity in this respect has accelerated rapidly since World Summit on Sustainable Development in 2002 and momentum built since. Three events were of special significance--Global Mapping Forum 2003, the Cambridge Conference of 2003 and the special session on Mapping Africa for Africans held in conjunction with the ICA Conference in Durban in August 2003. At Global Mapping Forum 2003, over 200 participants from forty-one countries endorsed the Okinawa Declaration that reads in part:
   We strongly support the goal of ISCGM to develop a
   global map for the entire surface of the earth. We
   express our gratitude to 130 countries which have
   already committed themselves to the development
   and maintenance of Global Map.... We also call on
   all those countries not yet committed to Global Map
   to join and help make Global Map a truly global map
   of the world.... By having complete Global Map coverage
   by 2007 we will provide a spatial framework to
   facilitate the actions of the countries of the world
   both individually and collectively to conserve our
   fragile environment and make the development of
   our societies more viable and sustainable for future
   generations (ISCGM 2003).

The Cambridge Conference, held every four years, is a major forum for national mapping agencies. Global Map featured prominently on the program of that meeting and a special meeting to discuss Global Map attracted several countries interested in joining the initiative. Mapping Africa for Africans saw the surveyor generals of almost all African countries meeting to discuss matters of common interest. Global Map was invited to make a special presentation and was formally endorsed in the Durban statement that came out of that meeting.

Rhind (2000) argues that national mapping agencies have a poor record of co-operation, but in recent years, we would argue that the success of regional blocs of national mapping agencies in co-operative endeavours belies this assertion. EuroGeographics is an obvious example but so are the regional groupings in Asia/Pacific, Latin America and Africa, co-ordinated by the Economic Commission for Africa. Chile, through PCIDEA and PAIGH, is leading an initiative to create a seamless Global Map of the Americas (Barriga 2005); China through PCGIAP is involved in a similar initiative for Asia, and Canada, the USA and Mexico are planning a 1:1 million follow up to the 1:10 million integrated map produced in 2004 by the respective national agencies of each nation. Co-operation is a fact of life for most national mapping agencies, and there is no necessary conflict among national, regional and international interest in the mapping field. These interests are often complementary, not competitive. Many national mapping organizations, for example, are involved in creating a SDI for their countries. A SDI is an information system based on geographic location to organize, discover, analyze and apply information for policy discussions and actions (GSDI Association 2003). An SDI consists of the following elements: geospatial framework and content data; metadata; clearinghouses services; standards; partnerships and policies (GSDI Association 2003). Global Map is an operational Global SDI for decision making on environment and sustainable development issues (Taylor 2005). Global Map can therefore be used as a macro-level framework into which countries can place national-level content data at a variety of larger scales. Mwero (2005) gives an excellent example of the use of Global Map in this respect by Kenya. For some nations, the scale of 1:1 million is too small to meet national interests, and larger scale frameworks are required. This is especially the case for the smaller island nations of the Caribbean and Pacific, and ISCGM is responding to this by accepting data at 1:250,000.

The nature of many challenges such as the environment also requires a regional approach. The completion of Euro Global Map by the national mapping agencies of Europe is a good example. For many regions, both a national and a regional approach to SDI are required. Here, national efforts can be fitted into regional efforts. Regional co-ordination will be valuable for the island states mentioned above, and the Global Map initiative helps to provide the framework. The recent establishment of a Global SDI Association (GSDI Association 2003), with which Global Map has a strong partnership, is another example of international co-operation in this area. Global Map provides a template for further action.

There are similarities between the history of the IMW and the more recent history of Global Map, but there are also significant differences. Global Map has a clear focus on the environment as a key issue, and all nations realize that this is both a national and international imperative. National action within national borders alone is a necessary, but not sufficient, approach to address environmental concerns. Global mapping, of which Global Map is a major element, has clearly demonstrated its utility in environmental planning and monitoring. An excellent study of this in the African situation has been made by the National Research Council of the National Academies of the United States entitled Down to Earth: The Geographical Foundations of Sustainable Development published in 2002 and presented to the World Summit on Sustainable Development in Johannesburg (National Research Council of the National Academies of Science 2002). National rivalries and suspicions do not threaten Global Map as once they undermined the IMW. There is a much stronger realization that international action on the environment is required as evidenced by the wide support given to Agenda 21 and ten years later to the plan of action agreed upon in Johannesburg. Unlike IMW, Global Map is meeting defined needs and is demonstrating its ability to address these needs. The initiative by Japan is receiving strong support by the United States where co-operation with Japan, especially in ODA efforts, is a policy priority. Strong support is also coming from Canada which is taking a leadership role in Global Map.

Through ISCGM, and with the financial support of the Government of Japan, there is a clear responsibility for action and a strong secretariat in the Geographical Survey Institute of Japan which continues to systematically and efficiently move Global Map ahead. This was not the case for IMW where the Central Bureau was not given a clear mandate. In addition, Global Map is not an isolated action on the part of GSIJ but is an integral part of a major environmental focus of the Government of Japan involving several ministries with support from other nations. Global Map builds on existing efforts rather than duplicating these as was the case with IMW, and, as outlined earlier, the ongoing support of the United States in providing global datasets has been critical to the success of Global Map. Global Map is building partnerships with other initiatives, not competing with them, and this strategy of co-operation is an important facet of Global Map's work. The IMW failed as a result of international competition among the major players. Global Map will succeed as a result of non-threatening international cooperation.

The costs of producing an International Map of the World in analogue form were exorbitant as seen by the cost, some US$570,000, to produce the Map of Hispanic America in 1952. Global Map is being built in the computer era where costs of such endeavours are less. It is also taking advantage of the substantial investments which have already been made by nations such as the United States and adding value to them.

Global Map still faces many challenges. In technical terms, the 5[degrees]-latitude tiling system, which is based upon the Vector Product Format used for Vector Map Level 0, has proven difficult to meet operationally, and the approach is currently being revisited. Global Map specifications may also be too rigid. Given increased interoperability, the need for a single specification has decreased. In 2003, ISCGM created a task force chaired by the Survey of India to revise the specifications. With this in mind, the Secretariat has proposed a move towards the Geography Markup Language (GML) format, which will enable easier web provision of Global Map data. An important element in this is the decision to build a Web portal working in partnership with ESRI. The development of the portal will help disseminate Global Map and increase its accessibility. The development of the portal and the revision of the specifications will be carried out together. In 2002, ISCGM took the decision to utilize raster data more effectively in the production of Global Map and formed a new working group to carry this initiative forward in close co-operation with the International Society for Photogrammetry and Remote Sensing and with the CEOS. Rhind's arguments (Rhind 1999) that more effective use of raster data is required to achieve global coverage are correct, and Global Map has adopted this approach.

The issue of scale is an important one. For many environmental uses, the 1:1 million scale is appropriate, especially when dealing with global, hemispheric, continental or regional issues, but at the national scale, it has its limitations. This is especially the case not only for smaller nations as outlined earlier but also for nations such as the United States. Kelmelis comments,
   The United States is still committed to the concept of
   Global Map. We believe, however, [that] to truly be of
   value for development, the scale and resolution must
   be more useful for regional and local decision making
   (Kelmelis 2002, personal communication).

This repeats arguments made earlier by the United States in 2002 (Kelmelis et al. 2000). For many nations, a spatial dataset to populate the SDI at the scale of 1:250,000 would be more useful. In 2003, Global Map took the decision to accept, but not require, data at this scale. It is interesting that one of the major criticisms of IMW by the U.S. cartographer Arthur Robinson related to the inappropriateness of the scale as outlined earlier in this paper, echoing the arguments of Gardiner (1960). The key challenge is, however, to ensure the active involvement of the national mapping agencies that have agreed to be part of Global Map.


It is sometimes said that history is obliged to repeat itself because people do not listen. The demise of the IMW, and its recent 'rebirth' as Global Map, suggests there is some truth in this old adage, though we hope and anticipate that the latter will succeed where the former failed. The technical, institutional and political contexts in which these two projects were developed are entirely different, of course, but they both reflect the same, simple conviction that global problems are most effectively revealed on a cartographic image that is itself a product of the kind of international co-operation required to meet the challenges such an image displays. But the story of the IMW and Global Map is not a straightforward example of a missed opportunity belatedly exploited. There are many lessons to be learned from the failure of the IMW, not least the need for clear, consistent and manageable objectives. Those who oversaw the IMW were unable to devise and implement a clear and consistent vision for their project. Global Map has emphasized its environmental and education role, but if it is to become a really effective management tool, its advocates will need to specify precise and compelling objectives that command widespread, indeed global, appeal. Progress has been slower than anticipated (although notably faster than IMW), and thus far, only twenty nations have fully delivered on their Global Map commitment although a further thirty three have submitted data for verification and formatting. These include two of the world's largest countries, Canada and China, which gives Global Map an impressive percentage of coverage in terms of area, especially when the Antarctic continent is added, but much remains to be done. Here, the increased involvement and commitment of the national mapping agencies represented and an increased commitment by them to Global Map is required (Maruyama and Akiyama 2003). The recent results are very promising with eleven new members including Libya and Egypt joining Global Map between 2004 and 2005. Budget constraints are universal, and national mapping agencies have seen governments cut their budgets and demand increasing cost recovery. These are realities but using the argument that involvement with Global Map will help national governments meet their commitments to the Johannesburg Summit and at the same time provide a framework for a National SDI may help to free up some additional funds for this important collaborative endeavour. Linkage with other international initiatives and a strategy of co-operative partnerships with these will help. Global Map, for example, is actively involved with the Earth Observation summits and with the implementation of GLOSS. If Global Map becomes an integral part of the new SDIs being developed at the national, regional and global scale, we can realistically look forward to the project being completed by 2007. But this will only be possible if we learn the lessons of history and avoid thereby the fate of those 'great historical events' that Marx believed occur twice but end once in tragedy, once in farce.


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Department of Geography, University of Portsmouth, Portsmouth P01 3HE, UK (e-mail:


Department of Geography and Environmental Studies, Carleton University, Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, K1S 5B6 (e-mail:


Geographical Survey Institute, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-0811, Japan (e-mail:


School of Geography, University of Nottingham, Nottingham NG7 2RD, UK (e-mail:

(1) When the IGC Committee began its deliberations, Penck (1858-1945) was professor of geography at the University of Vienna, though he subsequently moved to the University of Berlin, eventually succeeding Max Planck as the University's Rector during World War I; Bruckner (1862-1927) was a leading German authority on the geomorphology of the Alps and a pioneering theorist of climate change; Keltie (1840-1927) was Secretary of the Royal Geographical Society in London; Powell (1834-1902), a legendary one-armed veteran of the American Civil War, was the principal survivor from the golden age of European exploration into the American West and the Director of both the US Geological Survey and the Smithsonian Museum's Bureau of Ethnology; Ravenstein (1834-1913) was a cartographer for the Royal Geographical Society and various publishers as well as a renowned theorist of human migration; von Richthofen (1833-1905) was professor of physical geography at the University of Berlin; Schrader (1844-1924) was the cartographer and atlas compiler at Hachette, the leading French publisher; and Supan (1847-1920) was a physical geographer and climatologist and editor of the leading German geographical journal, Petermanns Mitteilungen. Short essays on several of these individuals can be found in Broc 1977, Grigg 1977a, Kolb 1983, Meynen 1983 and Jay 1986. See Grigg, 1977b on Ravenstein, and Heffernan 2000 on Penck. On Powen, see Worster 2001 and Kirsch 2002.

(2) IGC resolutions about the IMW, written by Penck, Schrader and others, can be read in IGC 1896, 365-379; IGC, 1901, vol. 1, 203-229 and vol. 2, 65-71; IGC, 1905, 95-102, 104-107, 553-570; and IGC, 1909-1911, vol. 1 (1909) 331-335, 338-400 and vol. 2 (1911) 52-53.

(3) On Close (1865-1952), who was successively head of the Geographical Section of the General Staff, Director-General of the Ordnance Survey and President of the Royal Geographical Society, see Arden-Close 1947 and Freeman 1985. On Davis (1850-1934), the dominant figure in American physical geography in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, see Chorley et al. 1973. On Bartholomew (1860-1920), the Edinburgh-based map-maker and publisher, see Gardiner 1976.

(4) The authors are indebted to Minoru Akiyama of GSI for drawing attention to this study and to Kumiko Kurotori of the ISCGM Secretariat for translating sections of the book into English.
Figure 12

Area coverage ratio of progress of Global Mapping Project of as
of 21 April 2005 (Secretariat of International Steering Committee for
Global Mapping)

Developing data          28.2%

Non-participant           6.4%

Considering joining
the project                 7%

Data available           13.1%

Data for verification    45.3%

Note: Table made from pie chart.
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Author:Pearson, Alastair; Taylor, D.R. Fraser; Kline, Karen D.; Heffernan, Michael
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Date:Jun 22, 2006
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