Ayesha Ramachandran’s Worldmakers is a natural fit for the University of Chicago Press, a leading publisher of historically grounded studies of space and place in culture. Ramachandran is both theoretically nuanced and empirically grounded, wide-ranging in her sources and attentive to geographic specificity. Worldmaking is a “double-edged” term of David Hume’s that “refers both to the actual origin and order of the physical world as well as to the theories that we invent to comprehend the vastness of the whole” (9). (Giambattista Vico’s poetic vision is an acknowledged inspiration for this book.) Ramachandran analyzes atlases, epic poems, and natural philosophies from the Netherlands, France, Portugal, and England and from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries to document how European cartographers, philosophers, natural philosophers, and poets contributed to an epistemic shift from a divinely revealed to a human-made world.

How should we synthesize...

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