Mercator and Peters projections

Among the cartographic projections existing over time, the most known are the projections of Mercator and Peters , however there are other types of projections , classified according to the projection surface (flat, conical or cylindrical) and according to the properties (equivalent, conforming and equidistant).

Mercator projection

Mercator’s projection is a milestone in the history of cartography as one of the first to show the entire planet. It was elaborated in the sixteenth century with European maritime expansion. Thus began the globalization of capitalism with its techniques of production and commercialization.

Mercator placed the meridians perpendicularly, side by side, cutting the parallels. The meridians and parallels always crossed at a right angle, which allowed, with a compass in hand, the navigators to orient themselves by the cardinal and collateral points.

With the aid of the astrolabe and the coordinates of the map, navigators were able to determine latitude and make their voyages safer.

Mercator, unlike Arabs and Italians, placed the north at the top of his map. This was because the Europeans were conquering and dominating territories and peoples and, therefore, felt superior.

The tendency of peoples to value their culture and way of life, considering itself a model for all the others, is called ethnocentrism . Thus, in the sixteenth century, with the Great Navigations, the Eurocentric vision of the world was created, materialized in cartography: the north, where Europe is located, appears above the south on maps.

However, when the Washington Agreement was signed in 1884 between the United States and the United Kingdom, the Greenwich Meridian was taken as a reference of longitude and time zone. This view has been consolidated over time.

Because the Earth is spherical (actually a geoid), any place on the surface can be the center, according to diverse views and interests. The map of Mercator represents the world seen by the Europeans according to their interests.

The projection of Mercator greatly distorts the size of the lands, especially those located in high latitudes, but preserves the shape of continents and countries. It is a conformal projection . Thus, Europe, in addition to being in the center and top of the map, has become larger than it actually is, symbolically reinforcing its position of superiority.

Until now, it is used in maritime navigation, mainly because it accentuates the areas in high latitudes, highlighting the polar regions.

Peters projection

Another projection that deserves special mention is that of Peters , reworked in 1952 by the German historian Arno Peters and published for the first time in 1973. This projection maintains the equivalence of the areas of countries and continents; so countries appear the size they really are. For this reason it is called an equivalent projection .

Although Peters’s world map continues to express a Eurocentric view of the world, the emphasis on low-latitude countries, which, under Mercator’s projection, had their areas underestimated is visible.

Mercator and Peters projections
Mercator and Peters projections

Peters’ inverted projection shows the world in the third-worldview of the planet, considering the historical moment in which it arose. It served, therefore, the pretensions of the underdeveloped countries, mainly Africans and Asians, that obtained their political independence during the process of decolonization of the post-War.

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