Art recounts the Plight of Refugees

Issue 1710

13 November 2017

Geographic maps are a mirror of time: borders and boundaries move on the chessboard of history and speak of wars, foreign occupations and international treaties. Daniel Pennac commented, “Writing history means messing up geography.”[1] Élisée Reclus, the French geographer and politician, was well aware of it in the 1950s when he penned an important work called Nouvelle Géographie Universelle.

A restless personality and brilliant scholar, Reclus was forced into exile from France on two occasions because of his anarchist ideas. He spent time in Algeria, the United States, Canada and South America, and it was while in exile that he wrote his most important work. In his professional life he alternated between scientific activity and politics, concluding that “geography is nothing more than history in space, as history is geography over time.”[2]

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