Victor Jacobs

Professor Albert

FYS: The Power of Maps

20 November 2017


In 1799 when this map, A New Map of United Provinces, comprehending Holland, Zealand, Utrecht, Gelders, over Yssel, Friesland, and Groningen; with the Lands of Drent, Dutch Flanders and Dutch Brabant, was made Holland wasn’t just called The Netherlands. It was called, in Dutch, ‘’Republiek der Zeven Verenigde Nederlanden’’. Translated that means Republic of the seven united Netherlands. As you can see on this map Holland has got 7 provinces, but The Netherlands in 2017 have got 12 provinces. One thing that is different is that in this map however one province, named Flevoland was not even ‘’built’. In 1916 the Zuiderzee works began, this is a man-made system of dams and dikes which reclaimed land in the Zuiderzee.[1] So this map from 1799 has got a different shape than now. This map tells us some things about the time it was made in so that is why it still matters. It is interesting how maps change and develop over time but every map matters when you look to it from the time perspective it was made in. We have to understand the time in which the map was made in order to understand the map. With knowledge from an older map we can also understand the maps from this time better, in that way we are able to understand the changes.

The sandbanks, who only occur for a certain time, are very noticeable in this map. There are so many sandbanks in the North of Holland and the cartographer drew them all. John Cary didn’t draw anything in the sandbanks because it is obviously not possible to build anything on them because they are temporary land. I think it is interesting because cartographers only portrait permanent land and sea. The reason for that is because maps would be useless when they wouldn’t picture lasting land. That is why every now and then map makers make new maps, to keep everything up to date.  These sandbanks, located in the Wadden Sea, are not permanent because they only occur during low tight and they do not have the same shape every day. Holland has got a rich history of sailors. During the Dutch Golden Age, the Dutch men overruled the world. Sailors traveled everywhere around the world to trade and Holland became a world power. Although the Golden Age ended around one hundred years before this map was made, sailors have always played an important role in The Netherlands because we border on the sea. Sailors might have interest in where the sandbanks are located, because then sailors can clearly see where they can sail and where not. Sandbanks are very dangerous because a ship can get stranded there and it can cause serious damage to the boat. For sailors, these sandbanks are probably the main focus of the map. Especially sailors from other countries can get a good overview of where to go on land.

In this map, it is very obvious how exposed Holland is to the water. There are numerous rivers, lakes and bays. The North Sea is located on the left, dikes protect the Netherlands from the always threatening sea. The Dutch have always struggled with this cold water, because a lot of land is below sea level. The water has also helped them winning battles. For example, during the year 1574 the Dutch Navy liberated Leiden from the Spanish. They were trying to occupy Leiden by surrounding it and waiting for the population, who were hiding in a castle, to surrender. The Dutch navy made holes in dikes so the Spanish army had to leave because the water was making it impossible to stay outside the castle.  During the year the map was published, the Dutch and French won a battle against the Russians and English in North Holland. John Cary named his map ‘’A New Map of United Provinces’’ which can be seen as a statement because the English and Russians didn’t accomplish in conquering the province of North Holland and dividing it with the other provinces.
This map by John Cary has some great details that tell us something about the time it was made in. Sailors, who played an important role around that time, can use this map for the sandbanks because it gives a great overview of where they are located. The water, which is highly present in the map, played an important role in our history and it saved the city Leiden. This map tells some great indirect stories about the time it was made in, if you look at details like sandbanks and the water. They both give time perspective to the map, it makes viewers understand the history of the map.

[1] Smits, Mari. “De Don Quichot Van De Zuiderzeewerken: Eibert Den Herder.”, Historiek, 2 May 2016,


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