Why do maps always show north as being up? It seems so obvious we hardly think about it anymore: “Because Europeans made the maps, of course, and they wanted to be on top.” We all probably accepted the profound arbitrariness of this cartographic convention when we first saw a map with everything flipped upside down titled “Australia: No Longer Down Under.” Our casual acceptance of white, Anglophone perspectives as global norms had been fundamentally challenged. All without ever stopping to wonder why the map wasn’t titled “Botswana: Back Where It Belongs” or perhaps “Paraguay Paramount!”
As is so often the case, our eagerness to invoke Eurocentrism displays a certain bias of its own, leading us to exaggerate the role that Europeans played in creating—or in this case, depicting—the world. In fact, the north’s elite cartographic status owes as much to Byzantine monks and Majorcan Jews as it does to any Englishman.
To find out why, check out the full article from the magazine South Writ Large