European Medieval and Renaissance Cosmography: a Story of Multiple Voices

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The objective of this essay is to propose a cultural history of cosmography and cartography from the thirteenth to the sixteenth centuries. It focuses on some of the processes that characterized these fields of knowledge, using mainly western European sources. First, it elucidates the meaning that the term cosmography held during the period under consideration, and 2the scientific status that this composite field of knowledge enjoyed, pointing to the main processes that structured cosmography between the thirteenth century and the sixteenth century. I then move on to expound the circulation of cosmographic knowledge among Portugal, Venice and Lisbon in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. This analysis will show how cartography and cosmography were produced at the interface of articulated commercial, diplomatic and scholarly networks; finally, the last part of the essay focuses on the specific and quite distinctive use of cosmography in fifteenth-century European culture: the representation of geo-political projects on the world through the reformulation of the very concepts of sea and maritime networks. This last topic will be developed through the study of Fra Mauros mid-fifteenth-century visionary project about changing the world connectivity through the linking of several maritime and fluvial networks in the Indian Ocean, Central Asia, and the Mediterranean Sea basin, involving the circumnavigation of Africa. This unprecedented project was based on a variety 36 | ASIAN REVIEW OF WORLD HISTORIES 4:1 (JANUARY 2016) of sources accumulated in the Mediterranean Sea basin as well as in Asia and in the Indian Ocean over the course of several centuries
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)35-81
Number of pages36
JournalAsian Review of World Histories - the Official Journal of The Asian Association of World Historians
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • Cosmography, 1200-1550
  • World Cartography, 1200-1550
  • Venice
  • Lisbon
  • Fra Mauros mappa mundi
  • Epistemology of the Sea


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