Fuat Sezgin and The Re-writing of The History of Geography
Keywords: Fuat Sezgin,History of cartography,al-Maʾmūn era,Marino Sanuto,Marco Polo,Imperial map making,decolonial history
Fuat Sezgin has shown in his deep studies on the history of mathe- matical geography and cartography in Islam and its continuation in the West that during the reign of Abbāsid caliph al-Maʾmūn (813- 833 AC) the disciplines had been further developed decisively. The al-Maʾmūn era went hand in hand with an early enlightenment. While introducing a new world view - not least into the history of cartography - European mapmakers started from the mid of the 13th century onwards to adapt the Arabic rational cartography. Against the background of current debates on theoretical approaches towards history of sciences, the contribution will discuss motives behind mapmaking. World maps reflect intentions beyond pure cartographies, thus also with regard to various meta-scientific and extra-scientific objectives. Map-making in Venice in the first quarter of the 14th century was motivated by imperial expansion. The world map of Marino Sanuto (1260-1331) is an outstanding example of early imperial geography and cartography. Geographical and cartographical knowledge of so far unknown regions and oceans, especially the Indian Ocean, was a pre-condition for expansionist proto-imperialism of European powers in the footsteps of the so-called crusades. In contrast to the travel reports of the Venetian traveller Marco Polo (1254-1324) - still playing an important role in Eurocentric geographies, cartographies and in so- called history of discoveries - the "Secret Book of the Holy Crusade" (liber secretorum fidelium crucis) spoke plainly on the desire to con- quer Egypt and Palestine. In the context of resent debates on theoretical approaches towards history of science which mainly discuss problems of e.g. global or entangled history, it will be asked for motivations and intentions of map makers. As history of science and techniques in general, not least history of geography, cartography and so-called discoveries are in urgent need to be discussed critically. The following paper will, based on the path-breaking findings of Fuat Sezgin, contribute to the decolonization of early European map-making.