Virginia Garrett Speakers

David Buisseret Retired Garrett Professor of History, The University of Texas at Arlington
"Spanish Foundations of Caribbean Cartography"
David Buisseret was Garrett professor of History at UTA between 1996 and 2006; before that he had been Director of the Smith Center for the History of Cartography at the Newberry Library, Chicago (1980-1996), having gone there from the Department of History at the University of the West Indies (Jamaica campus)., where he served from 1964 to 1980. From 1961 to 1964 he had been Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge University, and these various posts incited an interest in early modern French history, in the history of the British West Indies, and in the history of cartography, in which fields he published widely. The present talk makes use of his dual interest in Caribbean history and in the history of cartography.

Abstract: Outline of themes:  The medieval portolan chart tradition in the Iberian peninsula also charts of the Columbus period 1493-1504 - the "New World" or part of Asia? - indigenous contributions - the establishment of the navigation school at Seville in 1508 -  the stages of the master map (padrón real )  -  Spanish manuscripts and German editions - problems of delineation (eg. Florida) - the opening of the Gulf of Mexico in 1519 - subsequent cartography of the Caribbean.

John D. Garrigus Associate Professor of History, The University of Texas at Arlington
"After Mountains, More Mountains: French Cartography and Topography in the Antilles, 1600 to 1800"
John Garrigus received his PhD in 1988 from the Johns Hopkins University. He went off to graduate school to become a French historian but was early on attracted to the story of the Haitian Revolution (1791-1804), the world's only successful slave uprising. He ended up becoming an historian of the French Atlantic world, studying how French civic and legal cultures were transplanted into Caribbean colonies where 95 percent of the population was enslaved.

Abstract: In the seventeenth and especially in the eighteenth centuries, the Caribbean islands were France's most valuable colonies. The mountainous terrain of places like Guadeloupe and Saint-Domingue [colonial Haiti] presented both a challenge and an opportunity to French colonists. Dangerously, mountains provided shelter for communities of escaped slaves. But Antillean mountainsides also provided an extraordinary environment for growing coffee. And by the 1760s military doctors found that troops stationed well above sea level could escape the yellow fever that caused 50 percent death rates among newly arrived recruits.Claiming the highlands required mapping them, and this task pushed French cartographers to their limits. In 1763, after the Seven Years War France sent teams of cartographers to the Antilles. This talk examines their work and looks at their results.

S. Blair Hedges Professor of Biology, The Pennsylvania State University
"Solving biological questions with historical maps of Caribbean islands"
Blair Hedges is professor of biology at Penn State and an elected fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science. His primary work is in evolutionary biology, where he has authored more than 200 articles and several books on the relationships and biogeographic history of organisms, often using DNA sequence data. A common theme in that research has been exploring connections between the evolution of life and Earth history through time. He co-directs the Timetree of Life initiative ( Much of his biological work has been on Caribbean vertebrates, and he has an active field program that frequently takes him to the islands. He has discovered and named about 80 species of animals from Caribbean islands, including the smallest frog, lizard, and snake in the world. Maps have been an important part of his life, starting as a college intern at the U.S. Geological Survey doing computer cartography, building a collection of Caribbean maps dating from the period of discovery, and developing an online web resource for exploring Caribbean cartography ( His interest in early printed works also led him to develop methods of dating prints, including maps, borrowing from concepts used in molecular evolution.

Abstract: The Caribbean islands have had a political history more complex than any other region in the New World, as revealed in maps spanning five centuries. At the time of European discovery, millions of native Americans inhabited the islands and they had names for many geographic features. Some of those names are used today, such as Haiti and Jamaica. As islands and regions changed hands, names were introduced in different languages, some new and others as replacements for older names. The names given to islands, cities, and countries sometimes changed repeatedly. For biologists unfamiliar with this complex history, major errors can be made in determining where old but important museum specimens were collected. Timelines of Caribbean toponyms will be discussed, and how they bear on solving some biological questions.

Max Edelson Associate Professor of History, University of Virginia
"Settling the Ceded Islands: Cartography and Colonization in the British West Indies, 1763-1786"
Originally from Edina, Minnesota, S. Max Edelson has attended Deep Springs College, Cornell University, and the University of Oxford.  He completed his Ph.D.under the supervision of Jack P. Greene at the Johns Hopkins University in 1999, and has held faculty positions at the College of Charleston, the University of Illinois, and the University of Virginia, where he is currently Associate Professor of History and co-director of the Early American Seminar.  His first book, Plantation Enterprise in Colonial South Carolina, published by Harvard University Press in 2006, examined the rise the Carolina Lowcountry's plantation landscape.  Plantation Enterprise was awarded the George C. Rogers, Jr. Prize by the South Carolina Historical Society and the Theordore Saloutos Award by the Agricultural History Society.  His current book manuscript is titled "The New Map of Empire: How Britain Imagined America before Independence."  In it, Edelson describes the massive mapping projects undertaken by Great Britain as it attempted to take command of its American empire after the Seven Years' War.  He began this research in the history of cartography as the Kislak Fellow in American Studies at the Library of Congress.  With the support of grants and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the American Council of Learned Societies, he has developed "MapScholar," a website that allows anyone to create free, interactive displays of historic map collections online.  His own MapScholar site, which he will formally launch next year as a companion to the book, features high-resolution images of more than 500 eighteenth-century maps, plans, and charts of North America and the West Indies that are the subject of his research.

Abstract: Before the terms of the Peace of Paris were set, pamphleteers debated whether colonies on tropical islands or the temperate mainland offered the best kind of territory for empire.  Although Britain kept Canada and returned the rich sugar islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe to France in 1763, this choice did not endorse the continent over the Caribbean as a geographic model for the new empire.  By claiming the Ceded Islands of Dominica, St. Vincent, Grenada, and Tobago, Britain opened a vast new sugar frontier to development, dramatically intensifying its commitment to plantation slavery.  It created The Ceded Islands Land Commission to map the islands and divide them for sale, a task completed by army captain John Byers in 1776.  Provincial surveyor Isaac Werden’s maps of the Rosalie Estates in Dominica attracted investors with topographically detailed images of new plantation land, demonstrating how mapping made planting at a distance possible.  By controlling the ways in which this new royal property was put up for sale, the Board believed it could mitigate the social and strategic ills that had made Barbados, the Leeward Islands, and Jamaica as unstable as they were prosperous.  Although Ceded Island planters, especially in Grenada, reaped enormous windfall profits, this bid to expand the reach of the lucrative West Indies collapsed during the ferocious maritime warfare of the American Revolution.  Through these maps, Britain imagined how these islands could be claimed, occupied, developed, and reconstituted as colonies in an era of imperial war.

Daniel Hopkins Associate Professor, Department of Geosciences, University of Missouri—Kansas City
"Cartography and cadastre in a slave-plantation society: eighteenth-century maps of St. Croix, Danish West Indies (U. S. Virgin Islands)"
Daniel Hopkins teaches geography—including cartography—at the University of Missouri—Kansas City. He wrote his dissertation on the cadastral system and mapping of St. Croix 25 years ago at Louisiana State University and published a number of articles on the subject, but he has since concentrated on the historical geography of the Danish establishments on the West African coast, commencing at about the time of Denmark's abolition of the slave trade. All of his work draws on the rich colonial archives preserved in Copenhagen.

Abstract: An unusual rectangular cadastral system—the pattern of taxed landholdings—was imposed on the island of St. Croix by the Danish colonial administration in the 1730s, a half century before a similar pattern began to be laid out on the public lands of the United States. The mapping of the island relied heavily on the building blocks provided by this grid of plantation lots: the first Danish maps of the whole island were not completed until the island's agricultural land was almost entirely taken up. The earliest map of St. Croix, preserved only in a single manuscript copy,  purports to show the precise pattern of cultivation of sugar cane, cotton, woodlands, and provision crops and pasture in 1750, when the economy was just beginning to develop rapidly. It is an extraordinary window on an Antillean plantation society. Subsequent maps, quite understandably, are less informative than this remarkable 1750 map, but one of them reveals at least the outlines of the agricultural landscape four decades later, in the 1790s. Taxes were paid on slave-holdings as well as on land, and the annual cadastral record from which the maps were in large part compiled constitutes rather an elaborate demographic record. Because the maps and the tax records were so closely linked, the slave populations can, by and large, be mapped onto the individual plantations. It is thus possible to reconstruct a great deal of the working of the entire slave-plantation system (a matter of several hundred properties) and to situate the laboring lives of tens of thousands of slaves in the island's varying enviroments—well-watered or dry, level or steep, accessible or remote—down through the decades of a vigorous economic boom. A couple of colleagues —historians of slavery—and I are endeavoring to bring the organizational, analytical, and cartographic capacities of Geographic Information Systems to bear on these maps and cadastral records. In particular, we hope to be able to map three amazingly detailed agricultural censuses gathered around the turn of the nineteenth century in the administrative context of Denmark's precedent-setting abolition of the Atlantic slave trade.

Texas Map Society Speakers

David Finfrock Map Collecter 
"Cartographic Corner: A Show and Tell Session"

Justin Dellinger Doctoral Student, The University of Texas at Arlington, co-winner of the 2011 Jenkins and Viginia Garrett Endowed Fellowship in the History of Cartography 
"La Balise and the Mouth of the Mississippi River"

James E. Bruseth former Director, Archaeology Division, Texas Historical Commission 
"How Maps Doomed a Seventeenth-Century French Expedition and Enabled a Twentieth-Century Shipwreck Discovery: The Story of La Salle’s Ship La Belle"

Thomas Weiss co-winner of the 2011 Jenkins and Virginia Garrett Endowed Fellowship in the History of Cartography
"On the Genealogy of Map Distortions: Using Twenty-first Century Technology to Identify Trends among Eighteenth- and Nineteenth-Century Maps of the Trans-Mississippi West"

Kathy Weimer Associate Professor and Curator of Maps for the University Libraries and the Cushing Memorial Library and Archives at Texas A&M University   
"Cartographic Collections and Digitization Efforts: Three Texas Universities"

Valerie Prilop Digital Collections Librarian for Special Collections at the University of Houston 
"Cartographic Collections and Digitization Efforts: Three Texas Universities"

Richard Oram Associate Director and Hobby Foundation Librarian, Harry Ransom Center, The University of Texas, Austin 
"Cartographic Collections and Digitization Efforts: Three Texas Universities"

Imre Demhardt Professor and Garrett Endowed Chair on the History of Cartography, UT Arlington 
"Mystery Presentation"