It is so interesting to me how people’s view of the world has changed throughout time. At least since Homo sapiens have been around, the geographical locations of landmasses haven’t changed much, but humans’ vision of these lands have changed immensely.
The most obvious examples I can think of is Marco Polo’s travels in Asia and his subsequent introducing Europeans this unknown place through his writings, and the discovery of the New World. It reminds me of being very young, before I really understood that there were other places that existed outside the U.S.
I would love to do some kind of meta-analysis on how often texts reference other places, when these places became more varied, and how these trends changed throughout time. This would involve making a map like the one in this exercise for thousands of texts from different centuries. By looking at this particular map, it seems that by the time Robinson Crusoe is published, the average European citizen had a pretty broad awareness of the world. But just the fact that RC is about a man who is trapped on an UNKNOWN island speaks to the possibility that people were very unsure about the finite nature of the world.
This makes me think of relating global awareness with other trends of thought. I remember reading theories of cosmopolitanism by Pheng Cheah, who gives a history of cosmopolitanism. I would be interested in tracing this trend of awareness of the world to the rise of cosmopolitanism. I think we may also compare global awareness to the rise of nationhood. One theory about the rise of nationhood is that nations are partly defined as a place that is different from other places. Nations need other nations to set them apart, so increased global awareness may partly account for this.
I realize I am thinking of a very Euro-centric line of thought, i.e. I am thinking of Europe’s increasing awareness of other places outside Europe throughout time. But perhaps we could do analysis on how different regions came to think of the rest of the world by studying texts from only a specific region. Then we could also compare the different trends from different regions.
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