An Emerging International: The Imperial Gaze of the Monster Globe in 1851

Publication Type:
Journal Article
Citation:
Fabrications, 2017, 27 (1), pp. 3 - 21
Issue Date:
2017-01-02
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© 2016 The Society of Architectural Historians, Australia and New Zealand. One month after the opening of the Great Exhibition in London in 1851, one of the most compelling purpose-built panoramas was erected by cartographer James Wyld in Leicester Square. The largest model of the earth ever constructed, the Monster Globe is a gigantic hollow sphere depicting land formations in colour relief on its surface: a georama. The globe is inverted, however, so that the exterior surface of the earth is conveyed on the interior surface of the hollow sphere. Transcending traditional cartographic means, the Monster Globe represented emerging spatial conceptions, evident in the all-seeing allegorical gaze of the map. James Wyld’s ambitious scheme to respatialise human perception originates in an equally ambitious Great Exhibition of 1851. Wyld’s Monster Globe, however, has largely been forgotten. Relatively unknown and understudied, this paper will show that its importance lies as a symptom of an emerging imperial construct. Is it possible, however, the Monster Globe is both symptomatic of modern imperialism while also emblematic of a not-yet fully realised global space? Beyond mere historical document, this paper contends that the cartographic space of the Monster Globe stems from and prefigures specific historical conjunctures of imperial capitalism and global power.
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