Imaginary Cartographies: Possession and Identity in Late Medieval Marseille

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How, in the years before the advent of urban maps, did city residents conceptualize and navigate their communities? In his strikingly original book, Daniel Lord Smail develops a new method and a new vocabulary for understanding how urban men and women thought about their personal geography. His thorough research of property records of late medieval Marseille leads him to conclude that its inhabitants charted their city, its social structure, and their own identities within that structure through a set of cartographic grammars which powerfully shaped their lives.Prior to the fourteenth century, different interest groups—notaries, royal officials, church officials, artisans—developed their own cartographies in accordance with their own social, political, or administrative agendas. These competing templates were created around units ranging from streets and islands to vicinities and landmarks. Smail shows how the notarial template, which privileged the street as the most basic marker of address, gradually emerged as the cartographic norm. This transformation, he argues, led to the rise of modern urban maps and helped to inaugurate the process whereby street addresses were attached to citizen identities, a crucial development in the larger enterprise of nation building.Imaginary Cartographies opens up powerful new means for exploring late medieval and Renaissance urban society while advancing understanding of the role of social perceptions in history.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"In this interesting and thought-provoking work, Daniel Smail concludes that the emergence of the street as the normal cartographic marker led first to the development of urban maps, and finally to the process of attaching street addresses to citizens. . . .Smail's work is scholarly and is highly recommended."—A.G. Traver. History: Reviews of New Books. Winter 2000.

"Imaginary Cartographies is a masterful case study of the relationship between spatial representation and the emergence of identity in late medieval and early modern Marseille. Through exhaustive archival and theoretical research, Smail explores the ways in which notorial records refer to an individual's relationship to the territory, thereby revealing the emergence of the notion of personal and national identity . . . The author's convincing argument allows his readers to rethink not only how identity was articulated in the late medieval and early modern period, but also how both visual and linguistic spatial representations intersect in an emergent national imagination. The scope of Smail's work will appeal across lines of discipline as this book . . . lays out a solid methodological approach, navigating smoothly between the theoretical and the archival."—Elisabeth Hodges, Mapline. Spring 2000.

"This book makes a lively and original contribution to current debates on state development."—Karl Appuhn, Columbia University. Sixteenth Century Journal XXXII/1 (2001)

"This is an important work, establishing a methodology and analytical framework that I hope will inspire studies of these questions of language, perception, and statecraft elsewhere, including the other towns of Provence and cities in the north that were little affectd by the culture of the public notaries."—David Nicholas, Clemson University. American Historical Review, December 2001

"This book is elegantly written, and it is a pleasure to follow its argument through learned forays into topics ranging from cognitive psychology to cartography. . . This is an ambitious book, filled with ideas that will stimulate researchers to look much more closely at records that they may have taken for granted."—John Drendel, Universite du Quebec. Speculum, October 2001

"Smail began his work on the notaries of Marseille, who played a critical role in the late medieval period, as today, in transfers of property and in contracts more generally. The collections of notarial records in Marseille, as throughout Provence and Languedoc, are rich enough to support many different thematic studes, including studies of the notaries themselves as a professional group and of the individuals whose names appear in their records (some 14,000 in this case). Smail's study began as such, but evolved into something else, more imaginative, provocative and also tentative. A better first book is hard to find."—Josef W. Konvitz, Imago Mundi 54, 2002.

"In this original and gracefully written book, Daniel Smail transforms the mundane name and place entries of notarial records into rich and exciting conceptual categories that challenge our illusions about the origins of modernity. This is a book as compelling for its methodology as for its historical insights."—Barbara H. Rosenwein, Loyola University Chicago

"In his superb and original Imaginary Cartographies, Daniel Smail shows how physical space and identity were constructed—through verbal mappings of the world—in the late medieval and early-modern city. A great achievement!"—Teofilo F. Ruiz, UCLA

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780801436260
  • Publisher: Cornell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/28/1999
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 280
  • Product dimensions: 6.29 (w) x 9.34 (h) x 0.84 (d)

Meet the Author

Daniel Lord Smail is Professor of History at Harvard University.

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Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
List of Tables
A Note on Names
Introduction: Imaginary Cartographies
The Public Notariate
The Bureaucratic Science of Classification
Marseille: A Case Study
Ch. 1 Marseille
Social Topography and Political Structures
The City Imagined
Ch. 2 The Notary as Cartographer
Notarial Cartography
Making the Map
Ch. 3 Seigneurial Islands
The Cartography of the Episcopal Curia
The Cartography of the Royal Curia
The Cartography of the City Council
The Decline of the Insular Template
Ch. 4 Vernacular Cartography
The Templates of Vicinity and Landmark
Contested Sites
The Decline of the Artisanal and Retail Vicinity
Ch. 5 Identity and Address
Shaping Identities
Identity and Address in Notarial Casebooks
Addresses in Seigneurial Records
App. 1 Lexical Terms Used in the Register of the Confraternity of St. Jacques de Gallicia, by Category
App. 2 The Prosopographical Index
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