I’m planning to use this blog to share information, ideas and (hopefully) entertaining stories about international boundary-making and territorial dispute resolution around the world. I have been fortunate enough to work in the field of international boundaries for nearly a quarter of a century, and I continue to be entranced by these often bizarre lines which have shaped and reflect so much of international relations over the last 150 years. I am particularly fascinated by boundary maps (I sometimes wonder if I was destined to become a geographer when my parents gave me the initials MAP…) and when I reflect on the impact of boundary cartography I often find myself thinking about the following story in Evelyn Waugh’s wonderful 1938 satire about journalism, Scoop:
They talked about Ishmaelia. “No-one knows if it’s got any minerals because no-one’s been to see. The map’s a complete joke,” Bannister explained. “The country has never been surveyed at all; half of it’s unexplored. Why, look here,” he took down a map from his shelves and opened it. “See this place, Laku. It’s marked as a town of some five thousand inhabitants, fifty miles north of Jacksonburg. Well, there has never been such a place. Laku is the Ishmaelite for ‘I don’t know’. When the boundary commission were trying to get through to the Sudan in 1898 they made a camp there and asked one of their boys the name of the hill, so as to record it in their log. He said ‘Laku’, and they’ve copied it from map to map ever since.
I’m sure that I will be returning to this theme in future posts, but the quotation is one that I’ve been looking for an excuse to share for a long time. I hope that you enjoy it.