Browse Primary Sources
Locate primary sources, including images, objects, media, and texts. Annotations by scholars contextualize sources.

Homer’s The Iliad

Homer's The Iliad is an ancient greek poem written around the eighth century. The poem is set during the Trojan war and highlights the conflict between King Agamemnon and the warrior Achilles. The text provided is an excerpt from book three.

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Map of the Partition of Israel and Palestine

In 1947, Britain announced that it would terminate its mandate government in Palestine. As a result, a special committee formed by the United Nations was charged with partitioning the territory into separate, sovereign states. Although the plan called for Jewish and Arab states neatly divided by plotted lines, the reality, as these maps show, was much more contested.

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Map of the Union Pacific Railway

Map of the Union Pacific Railway

This 19th century map illustrating the many places one could travel on the Union Pacific Railway is the product of a multitude of choices made by the mapmaker. As a product for, and advertisement of, the Union Pacific Railroad, it obviously only depicts that one railway to the neglect of all of the others that were beginning to be built in the late 19th century.

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The Gall-Peters Projection

Unsatisfied by the distorted view of the world that dominated the Western mind in the form of the Mercator Projection, James Gall and, later, Arno Peters engineered a new map in the 19th and 20th centuries. Based on a mathematical formula that Gall first proposed in the 19th century, Peters projected an image of the world that attempted to capture the size of objects relative to each other.

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The Mercator Projection

Although the Flemish geographer and cartographer Gerardus Mercator's rendering of the earth has been criticized for the way it distorts reality, it was revolutionary in the way it organized space and distance.

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The Jingban tianwen quantu Map of the World

Like many maps in the pre-modern and early-modern world, this map from China at the end of the 18th century reflected a deeply egocentric worldview.

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Babylonian Map Tablet

This ancient map depicts the known world as imagined by the Babylonians of the 6th century BCE. Like many ancient maps, this cuneiform tablet is concerned less with mathematically plotting space and direction than with simply capturing the various places and peoples in the world around Babylon.

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The Turin Beatus Map of the World

Before the modern age, maps offered more than just an objective, geographical survey. Often, as is the case with this world map from the 12th century, they also conveyed a set of stories that shaped the worldview of its viewers. This map, for instance, sought to convey allegorical, religious, and geographic information all at once.

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Marshall Islands Stick Charts

The Marshall Island stick charts represent a unique and non-Western tradition of mapmaking. Whereas Western maps generally attempt to capture and visualize distance and space, the charts of the Marshallese dwelt not just on general direction, with shells representing nearby islands, but, more importantly, ocean currents and swell movements.

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Plan for the City of Moscow

This 1793 map of Moscow shows a relatively modest and compact city when compared to the sprawling metropolis of the 21st century. From this perspective, the viewer can see the remains of a fortification wall that once encompassed the entirety of the city.

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