The World Centrifuged
Harrison, Richard Edes
Date of Creation:
“The situation is as of July 7, 1941, and is subject to change without notice” (legend on the map).
Issued in the August, 1941, special edition of ‘Fortune Magazine’, devoted to ‘Total War in the US’. The featured map, between pages 48 and 49, by Harrison, titled ‘The World Centrifuged’, is a “north-polar Azimuthal Equidistant Projection”. The political alignments of the world are shown centering geographically around the North Pole, but ideologically and economically around the US, and is designed to impress upon Americans just how futile it is to continue to think in an isolationist way.
By 1940, Americans had become so used to seeing the world mapped on the Mercator projection that any other method met with resistance, both in classrooms and living rooms. But as aviation displaced sea navigation in the twentieth century, Americans were sorely in need of maps that conveyed the new realities of distance and direction in the air age.
The most important innovator to step into this breach was actually not a cartographer at all, but an artist. Beginning in the late 1930s, Richard Edes Harrison drew a series of elegant and gripping images of a world at war, and in the process persuaded the public that aviation and war really had fundamentally disrupted the nature of geography.
Russia appears as dark brown on the map, with the legend “Count this black if Nazis win a quick and complete victory”, having invaded on the 22nd of June, 1941, while Harrison was still preparing the map.