Book Terra Incognita reveals 100 maps to change how you see the world

From 19th-century long-haul travel times to the global spread of McDonald’s and Netflix: The fascinating maps that will change how you see the world

  • Terra Incognita – 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years charts the development of geographical maps
  • The book points out how some maps distort the actual size of countries, such as Alaska and Russia 
  • It also contains maps that reveal insights into global cultural developments and geopolitics 

‘For most of human history we had literally no idea where we were.’

This is the startling observation made by authors Ian Goldin and Robert Muggah in the introduction to their fascinating new book, Terra Incognita – 100 Maps to Survive the Next 100 Years, which certainly brings the reader right up to speed.

It not only charts the mesmerising development of geographical maps, from an AD150 illustration of the world to slightly less wonky pinpoint-accurate modern versions, but also contains maps that reveal insights into global cultural developments, including the incredible rise of McDonald’s and Neflix.

The authors say: ‘We are in a known world. In this book we use maps to explain some of our gravest existential challenges and a few of the most inspiring solutions.

‘We are living through a period of disorientating uncertainty and boundless opportunity. Our hope is that these maps and images… can educate and guide us to new places of insight and understanding.’

Scroll down to see 10 of the fascinating charts within the tome.

Ptolemy’s Geographia (AD 150) by Johannes Schnitzer – 1482. Terra Incognita describes this map as ‘one of the most influential of all time… it was the first to show longitude and latitude’. However, it ‘severely misjudged the size, location and shape of most countries and waterways’






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Orbis Terrae Compendiosa Descriptio by Gerardus Mercator – 1569. Terra Incognita says this map was ‘transformational’… produced by a legendary cartographer, geographer and cosmographer. Mercator’s innovation, explains the book, was to use a cylindrical projection and keep latitude and longitude lines at consistent 90-degree angles on a constant course, allowing mariners to navigate the world’s oceans more efficiently. However, the tome adds, the map, which is the basis for most modern maps, has an in-built deficiency – it distorts the size of countries towards the poles. So Alaska, Canada, Russia and Antarctica, for example, all appear much bigger than they really are

Mercator and Gall-Peters maps merged to show countries’ projected size versus their actual size

This fascinating map by Francis Galton and published by the Royal Geographic Society in 1881, shows how many days it took to travel from London to various points on the globe at that time. Terra Incognita reveals that it ‘assumes favourable travel conditions, that travel arrangements have been made in advance, and that travellers had the necessary finance’. The map shows that in the 19th century you’d need to allow 40 days to reach Sydney

Each dot represents a single McDonald’s location. The map reveals how the fast-food chain reaches into South America, Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. Terra Incognita points out that McDonald’s started with a single store in the late 1930s – and that now it has more than 36,000 outlets in over 100 countries 

This map indicates the U.S’s global military footprint, which is sizeable. As of 2015, Terra Incognita says, the U.S supports more than 800 bases and 200,000 active troops in 177 countries and territories

In 2019 there was more serious violence outside war zones than in them. The book points out: ‘More people were killed by gangs, militia and police in countries like Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, the Philippines and South Africa last year than in virtually every war zone combined’ 

How Netflix spread from one to 190 countries in ten years: These maps chart the spread of Netflix between 1997 and 2015 and then the explosive growth into 2016. Today, Netflix has more subscribers globally than every other streaming service combined, Terra Incognita points out

Mapping the spread of Starbucks around the world: There are more than 30,000 Starbucks branches globally, with a third of them located in the U.S

These two maps compare global internet access in 2000 and 2018, with countries where access is confined to less than 10 per cent of the population coloured yellow and countries where 50 per cent and more of the citizenry have access coloured red through to purple and dark blue (90 to 100 per cent)

Terra Incognita by Ian Goldin and Robert Muggah is published in hardback by Century

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